What Do I Need for a Comprehensive Estate Plan?
Mention the words “estate planning” and most people think of a will. That's the same thing, right? Not by a long shot, if you want to cover all the bases. A will does no good if you are temporarily or permanently disabled or incapacitated. You need additional documents to make sure your wishes are carried out and your assets are managed as you direct under different scenarios.
A Last Will and Testament is a document used to direct the disposition of your property upon your death. You can create trusts for the benefit or your spouse or children in your will, and name someone to oversee the management and distribution of your assets. You may also appoint a guardian for your minor children in your will.
If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the law of intestacy, which provides a statutory formula. The formula may or may not align with your wishes. If you do not appoint a guardian for your children, the state and/or your surviving family members will make the choice for you.
A Durable Power of Attorney gets its “durable” moniker from the fact that it survives your incapacity. Unlike a standard power of attorney, which becomes powerless upon your incapacity, a durable power of attorney kicks in upon your incapacity. It is the document by which you appoint a trusted person to oversee and manage your assets when you are unable to do so yourself. A durable power of attorney is a flexible document and may or may not include the power to make medical decisions for you, according to your preference.
A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to designate a trusted person, sometimes known as your health care proxy, to make medical decisions for you in the event you become unconscious or mentally incapable of making medical decisions for yourself. (Unexpected illness or injury can affect anyone, not just the aged.) Unlike a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney is for medical purposes only.
A HIPAA Authorization should be signed along with a medical power of attorney. Without a valid HIPAA form, your health care proxy may not have access to all of the medical records and information necessary to make important medical decisions for you.
Finally, a living will, or directive to physicians, allows you to tell your doctors that you do not want them to use artificial or heroic medical measures to extend your life in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition. This document is flexible as well, and you can condition the withholding of various medical treatments only if withholding them will not cause pain to you.
We are not guaranteed another day, no matter what our ages. Take the time now to prepare these important documents and save your family the additional heartache of having to make difficult decisions for you.
An experienced Bryan-College Station, Texas estate planning attorney can provide the information and assistance you need to prepare a comprehensive estate plan today. Call the Peterson Law Group to make an appointment at 979-703-7014 or fill out our online contact form.