How to Prepare For The Unexpected With a Last Will And Testament

If the pandemic years taught us anything, life is unpredictable. But sometimes chaos us how important it is to prepare for the unexpected. During uncertain times, you can take control—it’s time to put a plan together. Not just your own peace of mind, but also know who to count on when the unexpected happens.

How do I Create a Will?

Did you know that you need more than a last will and testament to have a complete estate plan?  Otherwise, the plans you’ve put in place may never see the light of day. A will covers your estate after you pass away, but who’s in control of your assets while you are alive but unable to make decisions for yourself?  

Set up an estate plan to account for every scenario to create the peace of mind you’ve been missing. Below is a list of the five must-have estate planning documents and a list of problems that these documents can solve, especially in an unexpected medical emergency or crisis.

The five critical estate plan documents you must have in place before an emergency

1. Last Will And Testament

After death, your will directs how your estate will be managed, who will receive your assets, and in what manner. Without a will, the state of Texas will decide this for you. If you have the state decide, your family’s cost to manage the estate will be many times higher than if you had a last will and testament. 

Absent a will, any qualified person (who doesn’t have to be related to you) can ask the court to be put in charge of your estate. Without a will, it will be up to the judge to make that decision—not you.

2. Trusts

A trust allows a third party (the trustee) to hold assets on behalf of another person (the beneficiary). There are many ways to set up a trust that enables you to specify how and when the assets pass to heirs. 

Trusts usually avoid probate, so beneficiaries can gain access to assets more quickly than they might through a will.

Part of Your Estate Plan Should Likely Include a Trust. Consider the Following:

  • Are your children ready to manage a large sum of money right now?  
  • Is all your property located in the same state?
  • Is your entire family located in the same state?
  • Do you want your family to be able to avoid the costs and delays of probate?  
  • Do you want to make sure your spouse has enough to live on if you need expensive, long-term care?  
  • Do you have a family member who is currently receiving public benefits and would lose eligibility if they received an inheritance from you?  

If any of this applies to you, your attorney can help you find a trust that will solve these issues.

3. Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial (or Durable) Power of Attorney creates an ability to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. It’s important not to put this off. Sometimes people are concerned about giving up control and delay too long: you must be legally competent to assign this role!

Some Common Issues with Powers of Attorney:
  • Did you print a copy you found on the internet?  
  • Did you know every state has a different form? 
  • Did you know title companies in Texas require specific language in the Power of Attorney to allow you to complete real estate transactions on behalf of another?  
  • Did you include the Grant of Specific Authority Section and properly execute those specific terms? If not, you may be unable to take the necessary steps to help your loved one plan for long-term care, perhaps forcing them to spend down their assets unnecessarily.  

Talk to your attorney about these concerns so that your Power of Attorney is properly drafted the first time.

Do you and your loved ones have correctly drafted powers of attorney?​

4. Medical Power of Attorney

You can ensure that your medical wishes are carried out by appointing a Medical Power of Attorney (also called a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney). Note that separate documents are used to create Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney.

Some Critical Questions to Consider:
  1. In your family, who has the authority to make medical decisions for one another?  
  2. What if that person is unreachable?  
  3. What back-ups are listed?  
  4. Have you provided authorization to the right people to receive your medical information?  
  5. If not, how will your loved ones be kept in the loop to make the best decisions for you when you cannot do so for yourself?

Don’t take for granted that someone else will handle things in the way that you would have wanted unless you have a plan in place.

Steven C. Holman, Attorney

5. Directive to Physicians (Living Will)

What if you are diagnosed with an incurable condition or debilitated and unable to make decisions about medical care for yourself? Is it important to you that you control your end of life treatment? Do you want to relieve your family from making a life and death call?  

A Living Will (sometimes called an “advance directive”) allows you to explain in advance what kind of care you do and don’t want, in case you can’t communicate that in the future. 

For many of us today, the future seems more uncertain than ever. A crucial role of an estate planner is to help you plan for all potential future scenarios. An attorney at Holman Law Firm can assemble an estate plan for you from the comfort of your home. We are currently taking appointments via phone and video.

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