More information about estate plan documents

LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

Important reasons you should have a properly prepared and executed Will:

  • Ensures your assets are inherited by the people you choose. If you die without a valid Will, Texas law will determine who receives your property. Your actual wishes or unique circumstances will not be considered

  • If you have minor children, you can name who you wish to care for them (guardian) instead of leaving the       decision to a family court judge. You can also state who you do not want to serve in that role
  • You can control when and under what circumstances financially inexperienced or irresponsible heirs will       receive their inheritance through the use of trust provisions; if someone dies without a Will or if a Will has no relevant trust provisions, an heir will receive their inheritance at age 18
  • You can decide who will wind up the affairs of your estate (executor), and who will manage any trusts that are created by your Will (trustee)
  • You can reduce probate-related costs and time for your heirs by providing for an independent administration and having a self-proved Will
  • If your estate is subject to estate taxes (as of 2016, only estates valued more than $5.45 million pay estate     tax), you can utilize tax planning techniques to reduce your estate tax liability
  • If you have an heir that you have given significant gifts to during your lifetime, you can provide that those       gifts were advances against their inheritance; without a Will or a Will that does not address the issue, such     lifetime gifts will not count against that heir's inheritance 

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY

  • Executing this document allows you to give legal authority to a trusted person to manage your financial affairs if, in the future, you become temporarily or permanently disabled or incapacitated; a physician would have to certify in writing, based on his examination of you, that you are mentally incapable of managing your financial affairs
  • This document must be executed before you become mentally incapable
  • You also have the option to make this Durable Power of Attorney effective immediately
  • This document must be notarized, but does not require any witnesses

MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY

  • Executing this document allows you to give legal authority to a trusted person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself; your physician would have to certify this fact in writing
  • This document must be either notarized or signed in the presence of two competent adult witnesses  

DIRECTIVE TO PHYSICIANS AND FAMILY OR SURROGATES

  • Executing this document, also known as an Advance Directive or "living Will," allows you to express your end-of-life medical treatment preferences in the event you later become unable to express your wishes due to illness or injury

  • The document provides that if in the opinion of your physician you are expected to die within six months from a terminal or irreversible condition, even with available life-sustaining treatment provided in accordance with prevailing standards of medical care, you either want all treatments other than those needed to keep you comfortable be discontinued or withheld OR that you want to be kept alive in this terminal or irreversible condition using available life-sustaining treatment

  • This document must be either notarized or signed in the presence of two competent adult witnesses

HIPPA AUTHORIZATION

  • Executing this document allows you to give permission to your health care providers and insurance companies to release your medical information to the person or persons you designate
  • Without such authorization, health care providers and insurance companies likely will not release your information to anyone but you, even to close family members; the provisions of HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) provide for significant financial and possible criminal penalties of persons or entities that release protected health information without proper authorization
  • This document must be notarized

DECLARATION OF GUARDIAN IN THE EVENT OF LATER INCAPACITY OR NEED OF GUARDIAN

  • In the event you ever need to have a guardian appointed for you because a court finds you to be an "incapacitated person," executing this document allows you to state who you want to be your guardian and who you do not want to serve in that capacity
  • This document has to be executed with the same requirements and formalities as a Will