An estate plan is not just a will. An effective estate plan coordinates all the pieces that make up your unique blueprint to put together a plan that will allow your family a relatively seamless process of addressing your assets in the event of your death or incapacity. In doing so, it gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be met and your loved ones will be taken care of.
Having a proper estate plan in place is extremely important. Unless you make your wishes known, the state of Texas has laws in place that will make decisions about your assets and your personal care on your behalf. Estate planning enables you to make vital personal decisions about the management and distribution of your assets, as well as your health if you become unable to do so yourself.
An estate plan can include some or all of the following:
- Advanced Health Care Directives and HIPAA Release Form
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Declaration of Guardian
A will enables you to distribute your assets to named individuals upon your death. Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to Texas law rather than to the beneficiaries of your choice. If you are unmarried or in a same-sex relationship, drafting a will is especially important to ensure that your assets are distributed based on your wishes following your death.
A trust is an incredibly flexible planning tool that can be used to achieve a number of estate planning goals. For instance, a trust allows you to pass property located in another state without going through the probate process of multiple states. If you wish to reduce the impact of estate tax on bequests to your family, would like to maintain a degree of privacy with respect to your estate, or would like to plan gifts for future generations, a trust enables you to do all this and more.
Advanced Health Care Directives
An advanced health care directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document that allows you to state in advance the end-of-life decisions you would want made on your behalf should you ever become unable to make these decisions yourself. The advanced health care directive allows you to appoint someone of your choosing, an agent, to make health care decisions for you when you can no longer make them for yourself. The authorized agent is allowed to access your medical information.
Durable Power of Attorney
A financial durable power of attorney allows you to name an agent who is authorized to act on your behalf with respect to financial decisions in the event you become incapacitated. The person would have authority to deal with third parties, such as banks, on your behalf.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney allows you to designate one or more persons to make medical decisions on your behalf in case of your incapacity.
For answers to frequently asked questions about Texas wills and estate planning, click here.