Estate planning is more than a will. It should also involve more than tax planning and property distribution upon death. Unfortunately, most Texans die without a will–and even more die without putting enough effort into estate planning.
Comprehensive estate planning should consider, at a minimum, a will, an advance physicians’ directive (a “Living Will”), a medical power of attorney, a durable power of attorney, declaration of guardian, a HIPAA authorization, and others if there are minor children. This blog entry will give a rough description of each of these documents.
A will: There’s more to a properly drafted will than meets the eye. Directing where you want your property to go upon your death is just one aspect of a will. This document should also name an executor and alternate executors, name beneficiaries, make specific bequests, and give other instructions for how your estate (and, if applicable, your minor children) should be handled.
Advance Physicians’ Directive: (Living Will). This document tells your medical care provider your medical wishes should you become incapacitated in the future. For example, if you are in a vegetative state in the future, you won’t have the ability to communicate your wishes for medical treatment given that circumstance. This advance directive relieves a tremendous burden on your loved ones, who may fear that they will make a decision out of conformity with your wishes. Also, most people, if given the opportunity, would rather make these important decisions themselves—as opposed to leaving it to unknown medical staff or others.
Medical Power of Attorney: In this document you name an agent, such as your spouse or some other loved one, to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable in the future.
Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a document giving another person the power to act on your behalf. The person you appoint will have the ability to manage your personal and financial affairs in the event you are unable. Usually, this power of attorney doesn’t take effect until you are incapacitated, and the power also goes away when you regain the ability to act on your behalf. This document is incredibly important because the power of attorney has broad power over your affairs.
Declaration of Guardian: This document names who you’d like to serve as your guardian should the need arise for a guardian. There are two basic types of guardian: a guardian of the estate and a guardian of the person. A guardian of the estate has the power to make decisions regarding your property. The guardian of the person has the power to make personal decisions for you, such as, where you will live.
HIPAA Authorization: Hospitals aren’t allowed to give out your medical records to just anybody. If you want a loved one to have access to your medical files, you need to give the health care provider authorization to show your file to others.
Anatomical Gifts: If you want to make a gift of body parts, it’s important that you let that wish be known. Gifts can be made to specific recipients, educational institutions, other groups, or the State. Again, if you want to make gifts (or abstain from making gifts), it’s important to make that wish known in writing before the need arises.
Necessary Documents if you have minor children: Minor children require additional planning. For example, your will should indicate who you’d like to serve as guardian of the children should you die. Your will may also include a provision to create a trust for your children instead of giving them money outright. In this case, so long as the trust exists, a trusted person you name as trustee can make sure that the money is disbursed for important issues such as education.
Visit ShuttLawFirm.com to get started on estate planning in the Dallas area. The Firm’s website lays out three simple steps for getting all your necessary estate planning documents, all drafted by a licensed attorney.
If you are considering estate planning for yourself, or know someone who needs estate planning, please see the following information on Shutt Law Firm PLLC’s flat-fee estate planning services:
Isaac Shutt is the Attorney/Owner at Shutt Law Firm PLLC. Visit http://www.shuttlawfirm.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Mr. Shutt at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this blog or to discuss a different legal matter. Phone-calls and quick e-mails are always free at Shutt Law Firm PLLC. Please consider the Shutt Law Firm if you’re looking for a Richardson probate lawyer, Richardson wills lawyer, Richardson estate planning attorney, or Richardson guardianship lawyer.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog post constitutes legal advice. If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney. Further, nothing in this blog shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship exists until you sign an engagement letter with the Firm.