Having certain estate planning documents can be a real advantage to both you and your family. Estate planning relates to the creation of a will and several other documents that are needed
to carry out your wishes regarding the distribution of your estate when you pass, and manage your assets and control your financial and medical well-being if you become temporarily or permanently incapable of making your own decisions. Although individual circumstances could require a more complex set of documents, the following is a list of five estate planning documents that every resident of Texas needs, regardless of the size of their estate.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that provides instructions about how your estate property should be distributed at your death. If you die without a will, you risk that your property will not be distributed according to your wishes, but rather by a strict set of rules provided by a legal formula. Your will can also establish trusts for the benefit of your family members, name an executor of your estate who will manage and distribute your property, name a guardian for your minor children, minimize probate-related costs, and in larger estates, minimize estate tax liability.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document in which you designate a trusted person or persons to manage and control your property and finances if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. You have the choice of granting an extensive or limited list of powers. One of the substantial advantages of a durable power of attorney is that it avoids the need for an expensive court managed guardianship if you become incapacitated.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is a document in which you designate a trusted person or persons to act independently or as a group to make health care decisions for you when you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated and cannot make these decisions for yourself. A medical power of attorney allows you to plan for your medical care in the event of injury or illness, whether expected or not.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as “HIPAA” protects patients from unauthorized disclosure of their medical information. As a result of this law, health care providers and others may choose not to disclose your medical information to anyone, even family members. A HIPAA release document allows the person or persons you designate to receive all of your medical information from your health care providers and insurance companies. This is particularly important if you become incapacitated and cannot make your own medical decisions.
Directive to Physicians [“Living Will”]
A directive to physicians, sometimes referred to as a Living Will, is a document that allows you to state to your family and your health care providers, instructions for your care in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot express your instructions. This document deals with circumstances when you are diagnosed with having a terminal condition or having an irreversible condition, and cannot express your treatment choices. This document can take a huge burden off your family at a time when they are faced with making extremely difficult decisions on your behalf.