Estate planning in Texas is more than just taking steps to protect your assets. It involves ensuring that your loved ones are cared for if something happens to you. It sets legal protections for your health care wishes and finances if you cannot make them known.
Your specific estate planning documents will be unique to your situation and obligations, but almost all estate plans in Texas contain these five vital documents. Not only can you rest easy, knowing that you’ve prepared, but you’ve also made it easier for your family and estate representative to navigate life after you pass away.
Last Will and Testament
The Last Will and Testament is the most common estate planning document, and many people think this is all they need. A will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to bequeath assets and property. It may also contain your wishes for your funeral. Someone without a will dies intestate, and their assets are distributed according to the Texas rules of succession.
Absent a will, the state laws determine who inherits and how much they inherit, which may differ from your specific wishes.
A will can also set a guardian for your minor children. This can also be done in a Declaration of Guardian which sets a guardian for your minor children when you are incapacitated or after your death. Without a will or a Declaration of Guardian, a court is going to decide who will be appointed as your child’s legal guardian and it may be someone whom you may not wish to raise your children.
Revocable Living Trust
A will may not be the best option for allocating assets. A will must go through Texas probate before the assets can be legally transferred to their new owners. A revocable living trust, on the other hand, permits you to remain in control of and benefit from the assets while you live, then designate who the assets will pass to after you die by transferring the trust benefit to another.
With a revocable living trust, you can financially benefit from the assets, live in a home if it’s in a trust, and make changes to the property. Revocable trusts bypass probate, meaning the perms stay private.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) designates a trusted individual to decide on your behalf if you cannot. You may be incapacitated due to illness or working abroad and unable to make financial decisions. Your representative can sign legal documents on your behalf, access your bank accounts, pay bills, and take care of other financial obligations.
If you’re badly injured, ill, or suffer cognitive decline, the POA can protect you and ensure that the management of your money and assets is handled by someone you trust and who has your interests at heart.
Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney functions in much the same way as the durable POA in that it designates a representative to make critical decisions for you. The medical POA permits someone to make healthcare decisions when you can’t.
For example, if you’re in a bad car accident and unconscious, your medical POA goes into effect. Your representative can tell the doctors which procedures you do and don’t want, according to the wishes you expressed and your beliefs. The medical POA may also come into effect for end-of-life care.
Arguing over what decisions to make for an ill or incapacitated loved one, such as remaining on life support or choosing hospice, can tear a family apart. The medical POA prevents your last moments from being fraught with contention.
Without a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act) release, your medical POA may be unable to make fully informed decisions about your medical care. The HIPAA authorization permits a specific person or persons to access your medical records and your healthcare providers to share information with them so that they can make the best decisions for you.
Estate Planning Attorneys Working For Your Interests
Don’t try to DIY an estate plan. When you work with a reputable North Texas estate planning law firm, you can rest easy knowing that your estate plan is personalized and completed in accordance with Texas laws. Contact an estate planning lawyer to get started.