We do not like to think about our own mortality. But planning ahead can save your loved ones some of the stress of your disability or death. A thoughtfully constructed estate plan can spare your family unnecessary turmoil and delay. If you want to be sure that your wishes are followed and that your affairs are in the hands of a trusted person, then you need to do some basic estate planning. Here are some of the documents you will need:
After you die, your will disposes of your property according to your wishes. The will also names a person, called an executor, to manage the estate, to ensure that debts are paid and the assets are properly distributed. If you have minor children, your will should name the person you choose to act as guardian.
If you die intestate (without a valid will), your property will be distributed according to Texas state law. The statute sets forth how property is divided in various circumstances. This may not be the distribution you would have chosen.
Durable Power of Attorney
In the event that you are unable to handle your own affairs, a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney authorizes the person you have chosen to make financial decisions for you. This document usually grants broad powers to manage your personal and business affairs to the designated person, so it is vitally important to name someone in whom you have trust and confidence. You can put limits on the powers, but it is also a good idea to discuss your intentions with your appointee ahead of time.
Health Care Forms
In Texas, there are two kinds of healthcare documents. First is a medical power of attorney, which names a person to make decisions about your health care if you are incapacitated or unable to do so.
The second document is called an advance directive or living will. This sets forth what types of medical care you would or would not wish to receive. It may contain your wishes in regards to continuing or withholding life-sustaining treatment in certain circumstances.
Designation of Guardian
A guardianship is when a legal representative is appointed to handle the finances and daily needs of an individual. A person in charge of the finances is called a guardian of the estate and a person in charge of day to day living is called a guardian of the person. You may pre-designate a trusted individual to act in case of your incapacity by preparing a Designation of Guardian in Advance of Need. Judges are not required to abide by this form, but they will give it significant consideration when appointing a guardian.
There are many types of trusts which are used for many different purposes. A trust holds title to assets for the beneficiaries named in the trust. It can be a valuable planning tool and can be crafted to suit your needs. You may have questions regarding trusts, but you should make sure your information is coming from a knowledgeable, reliable source.
Even though probate in Texas is a fairly simple process, in comparison to other states, you may wish to avoid it. If you have not completed your estate plan, probate might be necessary in order to transfer your assets to your heirs.
You may have done some estate planning in the past. Remember, however, that changes in your circumstances, such as changes in your family situation, the status of your business, the value of your assets, or just the passage of time may mean that it is time to review and update your estate plan. An experienced estate planning attorney can answer all of your questions.