What Are the Most Important Parts of an Estate Plan?
A last will and testament may be the first thing you think of in terms of estate planning, but other documents are just as important. In addition to a comprehensive will, your estate plan documents should include, at a minimum, a durable power of attorney and an advance directive for health care.
Why do I need a durable power of attorney?
Your last will and testament is a very important document, but it is not the controlling document until you die. A lot of things can happen to you in the meantime, such as a debilitating accident or the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
A durable power of attorney allows you to give a person you trust the authority to handle your affairs if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. A durable power of attorney differs from a standard power of attorney because a durable power of attorney remains valid when you become incapacitated, while the opposite is true for a standard power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney can be written so that it does not become effective until you become incapacitated. This way, you can be assured that you retain complete authority to manage your own affairs until you can no longer do so.
Why do I need an advance directive for health care?
Many types of documents allow you to give advance instructions to medical providers in the event you are not able to speak for yourself. A medical power of attorney lets you designate a person you trust to make medical decisions for you if you are incapable of making decisions yourself or communicating your decisions to medical professionals.
Health care providers are generally hypersensitive to HIPAA laws, so it's a good idea to include a blanket HIPAA Authorization for your agent, along with the medical power of attorney.
What about a living will?
A living will is another type of advance directive for health care. A living will is generally more comprehensive than a medical power of attorney, allowing you to tell your doctors more specifically whether you want artificial or heroic medical measures to extend your life in a variety of circumstances.
Last but not least – your last will and testament
Your last will and testament directs the disposition of your property upon death. In your will, in addition to giving gifts of property and explaining your preferences for final arrangements, you can create trusts to benefit people or organizations of your choosing and name someone to oversee the management of each trust.
If you don't have a will, your assets will be distributed according to the Texas intestacy statutes, which provide default rules for distributing estate property.
Call today to get your affairs in order
Our experienced Bryan-College Station, Texas estate planning attorneys provide the advice and assistance you need to develop a comprehensive estate plan. Call Peterson Law Group to make an appointment at 979-703-7014 or fill out our online contact form.