This page will explain more about estate planning.
What does “estate planning” mean, anyway?
Estate planning is simply planning for what will happen upon your death or incapacity.
All of us will face death or incapacity one day, and we should all plan for that day so that our families aren’t forced to make difficult decisions without knowing our wishes.
What is involved in a typical estate plan?
While everyone’s situation is unique, most people should, at least, have these four documents:
1. The Will
The last will and testament is the best known and most important estate-planning document. It determines the disposition of your property, both real and personal, after your death. It also lets you choose a guardian for any minor children you have, should you and the child’s other parent die before that child becomes an adult (age 18 in Texas). Finally, it lets you set up trusts to provide greater control over the disposition of your property and to obtain favorable tax treatment after your death.
2. The Directive to Physicians, or Living Will
The directive to physicians, or living will, tells your doctors what you want to happen if you are unable to make health care decisions and are suffering from a terminal illness. The directive will instruct your doctors to either (1) discontinue life-sustaining treatment and allow you to die as gently as possible, or (2) to try to keep you alive as long as possible.
3. The Medical Power of Attorney
In the medical power of attorney, you can choose someone to make health-care decisions for you if you are incapacitated and cannot make those decisions for yourself. For example, the medical power of attorney can be used to let someone consent to surgery on you if you are comatose or otherwise non-responsive.
4. The Durable Power of Attorney
Through the durable or statutory power of attorney, you can choose someone to control your property, including your financial accounts in certain situations. Depending on your needs, the durable power of attorney may be drafted so that it becomes effective (1) at the time you execute and deliver it, or (2) only upon a declaration by a doctor that you are incapacitated.
Are there other estate planning documents?
Yes. Some clients may need other documents, including various kinds of trusts or a do-not-resuscitate order. If you feel you may need one or more of these other documents, we would be happy to discuss that with you and, if appropriate to draft those documents.
Can’t I just draft these myself?
I mean, you can, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. These are very important legal documents that can dramatically affect what happens to you and your property upon your death or incapacity. And, especially with the will, the requirements are very exacting. This is not a time to cut costs. I would advise everyone to consult with a qualified, licensed attorney and have his or her estate plan taken care of the right way. If you don’t call us, please call someone who can take proper care of your estate. But, don’t just take my word for it.