How can you ensure that your final wishes are carried out when you die? Is there a way to take care of your family after you pass away? Can you construct an estate plan that will avoid probate? If you become incapacitated and unable to tend to your finances, who will make decisions for you? These questions are very important to consider, especially as you age and start thinking about the legacy you will leave behind, how it is distributed and who will inherit what you leave behind. This article covers Texas Estate Planning: Five Essential Documents, presented by the top-rated estate planning law firm of Holman Law LLP, takes a look at five essential documents every Texan should have in place before they die, to properly care for their family and loved ones.
Last Will And Testament
When a person dies, assets and debts are distributed by a probate court according to the terms of the person’s will. Creating a valid will ensures that your estate is handled the way that you want. A will allows you to name a person you trust as the executor, or administrator, of your estate. That person would be responsible for the management and distribution of your assets. If you die without a will, Texas inheritance laws determine the way that your assets and debts are distributed. This could conflict with how you would have liked for your assets to be distributed. If you haven’t written a will yet, you should consult with an experienced Texas estate planning attorney, who can guide you through the process of establishing your overall estate plan, addressing not only who inherits your assets and property but also your preferences for your end-of-life care and other personal matters of importance to you and your family.
A trust works by creating a new legal entity—the trust—and transferring legal ownership of personal assets to that entity for the benefit of another party. Trusts provide legal protection for your assets and establish the terms for the way assets are to be held, collected, and distributed to your chosen beneficiaries in the future. Trusts have unique features that set them apart from other estate planning tools. For example, assets held in trust avoid the time and expense of probate. Certain trusts offer protection from creditors which can preserve assets for your children or beneficiaries. Also, trusts are great options for families with assets in more than one state or if a family would ever contemplate moving to another state in the future. Finally, trusts can be utilized to aid a child or dependent with special needs throughout their lifetime and preserve public benefits that they receive. You should consult with an estate planning attorney to discuss the different types of trusts and which type(s) may be right for you.
Durable Power Of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives you the power to appoint someone as an agent to manage your finances if you become physically and/or mentally incapacitated and are no longer capable of managing your own financial affairs. Ideally, you will select someone whom you can trust, such as a family member or friend, to protect your best interests at a time when you cannot speak for yourself. That person will be authorized to carry on your financial activities such as paying bills, selling property and taking care of tax responsibilities. If you become incapacitated and do not have a durable power of attorney in place, it may become necessary for a court to appoint a guardian to handle your finances. This process can be very time consuming and costly, and can be avoided by planning ahead and creating a durable power of attorney. Additionally, this type of power of attorney can also be helpful for individuals traveling abroad, where they will not have access to financial institutions.
Medical Power Of Attorney
Like the durable financial power of attorney, a person with medical power of attorney can make important decisions regarding healthcare treatment on your behalf, should you become unable to make your own decisions. Determining medical treatments, setting up home-health care, assistance for daily life activities, and deciding upon your placement in a nursing home are examples of the types of decisions that an agent could make on your behalf. Their authority does not activate unless you become legally incapable of communicating these wishes on your own. Medical powers of attorney are not just for the elderly. Unexpected injuries or illness can occur at any age, so planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected is important for everyone.
A living will, also known as a directive to physicians, describes your vital medical choices. This may include your preferences regarding life support, resuscitation orders and pain treatment. This document gives you the opportunity to state ahead of time what kind of treatment and care you wish to receive if diagnosed with a terminal condition. This document differs from a medical power of attorney as described above. For example, perhaps you have already named an agent in a medical power of attorney document, but you don’t want to burden this person with making your end-of-life decisions. A living will allows you to direct physicians and caregivers on how you want a difficult moment handled in case it comes up. By planning ahead, you can save your loved ones from unnecessary suffering and relieve them of the burden of making very difficult end-of-life decisions, during a time of crisis and grief. This can help negate confusion and/or disagreement amongst your loved ones as well, as they won’t be placed in the situation of making the difficult choices. It’s important to keep in mind that living wills aren’t just for older adults. Accidents, illnesses and other unexpected end-of-life circumstances can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults to prepare these documents, along with the other estate planning documents described in this article.
Consult With An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you need advice and assistance with your estate plan, contact the Holman Law Firm, located in the Merit Tower in Dallas, Texas. We offer free initial consultations and can meet in person or virtually online. Our top-rated estate planning attorneys can help guide you through the estate planning process, and construct a customized estate plan to fit the needs of you and your family.