The Five Basic Estate Planning Documents Every Adult in Texas Needs
When people think about estate planning, they generally think only about a Will.
Although a Will is an important part of an estate plan, it only takes effect after you die. Other documents are necessary to carry out your wishes and manage your assets in the event you become temporarily or permanently disabled.
The following is a list of the basic five estate planning documents every adult in Texas needs:
Texas Last Will and Testament
A will is a legal document that identifies who will receive your property when you die. It is possible to create trusts in a Will, known as testamentary trusts, for the benefit of your spouse, children, or other beneficiaries. Having a Will gives you the power to name a person you trust to oversee the management and distribution of your assets. It also allows you to appoint a guardian to care for your minor children.
If you die without a Will in Texas, your assets will be distributed according to a statutory formula, which may conflict with your wishes. Also, if you do not appoint a guardian for your minor children, a judge who doesn’t know you or your family may have to make that decision for you.
Texas Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives you the power to appoint a trusted family member or friend as an agent to manage your finances if you are no longer capable of managing them yourself, such as if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated.
If you become incapacitated and do not have a durable power of attorney in place, a court-ordered guardianship may be necessary. Creating a durable power of attorney as part of your estate plan can help avoid a time-consuming and expensive guardianship.
Texas Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is a document that allows you to designate a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions for you in the event you become unconscious or mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself. This is especially important if you would prefer people other than those
Medical powers of attorney are not just for the elderly. Unexpected injuries or illness can occur at any age, so all adults should have one in place.
HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a Federal law that sets rules and limits on who can look at your medical records or receive your health information. Covered entities that violate HIPAA face stiff penalties, which make them reluctant to share medical information with anyone but the patient, even close family members.
A HIPAA authorization allows you to name an individual who can have access to your medical information so that your health care provider or insurance company have no reservations about sharing medical information with those whom you have authorized.
Texas Directive to Physicians
A living will, or directive to physicians is a document that allows you to instruct your physicians not to use artificial methods to extend your life in the event you have a terminal or irreversible condition.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your family in case of your death or incapacity, you need more than just a Will.
This article was originally published on November 2, 2009 and updated on December 7, 2022.