estate planning

It is easy to be lured by advertisements claiming you can save time and money by drafting your own will or trust using do-it-yourself websites, retail software, or fill-in-the-blank will or trust kits from the bookstore. It is unlikely that these alternatives will generate a suitable plan that accomplishes all of your objectives. Only a qualified trusts and estates lawyer can interpret the myriad laws bearing on property rights, wills, probate, and trusts. More important, canned programs and forms cannot provide the wide range of legal advice to assure that the form is correct, that assets passing outside of your will or trust are properly handled, that state law nuances are taken into account, or that relevant tax, legal and personal issues are properly addressed.

On the other hand, you can save time and money by preparing for a meeting with your estate planning lawyer. You can organize your information regarding your assets, liabilities, and title arrangements and think about your feelings regarding providing for various family members. Our attorneys and staff have the experience to handle a wide range of planning challenges and give personal attention to each client’s assets, wishes, and family dynamics to craft a customized plan that fits each unique situation.

If hired, the attorneys have a longer questionnaire for the client to fill out regarding details like account numbers, financial institutions, financial planner's information, etc. that will help generate a customized estate planning process for you and your family. However, it is helpful for you to take with you copies of important documents such as previous wills or trusts, powers of attorney, life insurance policies, employment benefits, and prenuptial agreements and divorce decrees, if they are readily available.

Planning Considerations

For families with simpler, smaller estates, Fergus & Tomanka, PLLC, works hard to provide a complete and versatile plan all at a reasonable fee. This strategy works well for a new, growing family without a lot of assets. A basic will with proper guardianship instructions ensures your children are well taken care of even after your gone. These plans are likely to include most or all of the following: 

  • Drafting a Will for an individual or for a Couple

  • Powers of Attorney

    • Medical Power of Attorney

    • Statutory Power of Attorney

  • Guardianship Declarations

    • Minor Children

    • Disability

  • Advanced Directive

 

For more complex, larger estates, Fergus & Tomanka, PLLC, will help you explore more sophisticated, customizable options, including:

  • Dynasty/lifetime trusts for descendants or surviving spouse

  • Family Trusts for children and/or other descendants

  • Education Trusts

  • Business Trusts

  • Family Business Succession Planning

  • Family limited partnerships, LLCs, S Corp

 

We also work with clients whose circumstances call present special planning challenges, including:

  • Prenuptial/pre-marital property agreements

  • Post-marital property agreements

  • Blended families/second marriages

  • Same sex couples

  • Special needs trusts/planning for disabled or challenged beneficiaries.

  • Planning for the terminally or mentally ill

 

Contact us (HERE) to create a future estate plan, as unique as your family. Have questions? Check out our FAQS below or call our attorneys at (325) 232-8218 to schedule a consultation!

FAQs

Wills

What Happens if You Die Without A Will?


If you die intestate (without a will), your state's laws of descent and distribution will determine who receives your property by default. These laws vary from state to state, but typically the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or if none, to other family members. A state's plan often reflects the legislature's guess as to how most people would dispose of their estates and builds in protections for certain beneficiaries, particularly minor children. That plan may or may not reflect your actual wishes, and some of the built-in protections may not be necessary in a harmonious family setting. A will allows you to alter the state's default plan to suit your personal preferences. It also permits you to exercise control over a myriad of personal decisions that broad and general state default provisions cannot address.




How is real property and personal property divided without a Will?





What will happen to my online accounts such as email, social media and digital music services when I die?


The afterlife of your online accounts depends upon the law in your state, what type of online account is involved and the terms of service governing the online account. Some people would be surprised to learn that an Executor or Personal Representative does not automatically gain access to all of the deceased person’s online accounts unless the deceased person has provided specific consent. For example, if you die living in a state that has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (which most states have), then your legal representatives will have access to your online accounts if (i) you have activated a setting within the online account (an “online tool”) in which you provide a direction to disclose the contents of your account upon your death to your representatives, or (ii) your Will specifically allows your legal representative to access your online accounts. If you have not provided consent in either of these two ways, then your legal representatives will not receive access to your non-work email messages or similar electronic communications, but may get access to other types of online accounts if the terms of service governing the account allow it. If you die in a state that has not adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, then your Personal Representative or Executor may get access to your online accounts if the terms of service governing the account allow it.




How can I assure that my legal representatives have access to my online accounts and other digital property if I die or become disabled?


Make sure that your Will and financial power of attorney specifically allow your legal representatives to access your digital property, including your online accounts and electronic communications. If the online account provider allows you to activate an account setting to direct the provider to release your digital property to your legal representatives (often called an “online tool”), then you should also activate that setting.




I do not want anyone to have access to my social media accounts after I die or become disabled. How can I assure that my wishes are respected and that my representatives and family are unable to access these accounts?


Make sure that your Will and financial power of attorney specifically prohibit access to your social media accounts. Consider listing those accounts that you would like to remain inaccessible. If the social media provider allows you to activate an account setting to prohibit the release your social media accounts upon your death or disability, then you should also activate that setting.





Probate

What will happen to my online accounts such as email, social media and digital music services when I die?


The afterlife of your online accounts depends upon the law in your state, what type of online account is involved and the terms of service governing the online account. Some people would be surprised to learn that an Executor or Personal Representative does not automatically gain access to all of the deceased person’s online accounts unless the deceased person has provided specific consent. For example, if you die living in a state that has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (which most states have), then your legal representatives will have access to your online accounts if (i) you have activated a setting within the online account (an “online tool”) in which you provide a direction to disclose the contents of your account upon your death to your representatives, or (ii) your Will specifically allows your legal representative to access your online accounts. If you have not provided consent in either of these two ways, then your legal representatives will not receive access to your non-work email messages or similar electronic communications, but may get access to other types of online accounts if the terms of service governing the account allow it. If you die in a state that has not adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, then your Personal Representative or Executor may get access to your online accounts if the terms of service governing the account allow it.




A loved one recently passed away and I have all of her usernames and passwords for her online accounts. Can I simply log-on to her online accounts using this information?


Legally, you cannot log-on to her online accounts, whether you have the passwords and usernames or not, if the terms of service governing the account prohibit it. Some online accounts specify that only the original user may access the user’s online account, even when the original user is deceased.