Essential Components of an Estate Plan
There are five essential components of a Texas estate plan.
- A Will
- Durable Power of Attorney (Financial)
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Directive to Physicians (Living Will)
- Declaration of Guardian in Event of Later Need
A will is an essential part of any estate plan. A properly drafted Will addresses at least two things. A Will states to whom your property will go when you pass away. If you don't have a will when you die, the State of Texas decided who gets your things. You may not like the state's plan. Second, a Will describes who will manage the things and debts you left behind (your "executor"). For parents of young children and children with special needs, it is even more crucial to have a will. A will is the primary way for you to legally specify who will be your child's guardian in the event of your death. In the absence of a will or a legally binding declaration of guardian, the court will determine your child's guardian. Most likely, this person will be a relative, but it may not be the person with whom your child is most comfortable, or who is best equipped to handle your child's needs. To be sure that your child is cared for by the person you think best, you must appoint a guardian through a will.
A Durable Power of Attorney (Financial Power of Attorney)
A durable power of attorney covers your financial and property matters. A power of attorney is said to be "durable" if it continues to be active once you become mentally incapacitated. A durable power of attorney allows you to name a person to take care of your finances and the things you own when you become unable to do so yourself. Having a power of attorney will avoid the need for your loved ones to obtain a guardianship over you if you become disabled (a time consuming and expensive process). The durable power of attorney allows you to decide now whom you want to help you with things if you become disabled. Otherwise, a court will decide, and if your family members cannot agree, it may be a stranger appointed by the court. You will be paying this stranger’s fees out of your bank accounts and possibly from the sale of your property.
A Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney allows you to name an agent to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you become too ill or incapacitated to tell your doctors what care you want. You can instruct your agent in your power of attorney that you don't want certain treatments. You can also designate one or more alternate agents in case your primary agent has died before you or cannot do the job because of their own illness.
Directive to Physicians (Living Will)
A directive to physicians is sometimes called a "living will" or an "advance healthcare directive." It allows you to tell your doctors, your agent under your medical power of attorney, and your family how you want end of life situations handled. In this document, you answer two questions about whether you want to be maintained on life support indefinitely or if you want to be allowed to pass as gently as possible.
Declaration of Guardian
A Declaration of Guardian In Event of Later Need is different from the guardian that you designate for minor children in your Will. The declaration of guardian in event of later need is a document that you use to state whom you want to be your guardian if you later need a guardian. Why would you want to do this? The main reason is that it is a back up to your powers of attorney. If someone went to court to obtain guardianship over you, the guardianship would, in most instances, override your powers of attorney. By using this document, you tell the court that if it needs to grant someone guardian over you, the guardian named in your declaration is the person you want to serve in that role. Generally, you will name the same people you named as your agents in your powers of attorney to serve as guardian. This prevents the plan you put in place from being disrupted.
Do you have further questions?
To learn more about how we can help you establish an estate plan in Texas, contact our Fort Worth law offices at 817-769-2750 or online by filling out our brief contact form below.