Various Elements of Estate Planning
As is true for any type of planning, there are many means by which to achieve an end. During your free estate planning consultation, our attorneys will listen, educate, and ultimately discern which tools might best serve your objectives.
Last Will and Testament
Many people believe that if you have a will, then you do not need any more estate planning. They also believe that having a will avoids probate, but that is not the case. A will simply informs the probate court to whom and how you want to leave your property. A will is simply a starting point for your estate plan and our Davidson Law Group estate planning attorneys can advise you where to go from there.
"Lady Bird" Deeds
A Lady Bird Deed is typically only used when the main concern in the estate planning process is avoiding probate. Lady Bird Deeds are used for pieces of real estate that you want your beneficiaries to receive very quickly and without going through probate.
A trust is simply a container for all of your assets. Assets within a trust avoid probate after your passing. There are three parts to every trust: a trustmaker, a beneficiary, and a trustee. Typically, the client serves in all three capacities while they are still alive and able to manage the assets inside the trust. If the client becomes unable to be the trustee due to disability or illness, the client will have already appointed another person to be the trustee. Beneficiaries become an active part of the trust after the client has passed. There are many different types of trusts, and we may recommend different ones to different clients depending on the objectives the client is trying to accomplish. Your Davidson Law Group estate planning attorney will advise you on whether you need a trust, and if you do, what type of trust would work best for your situation.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney gives another person the power to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so yourself. People who are appointed as your agent under powers of attorney have the ability to handle important decisions, like those regarding your health care and financial assets. A power of attorney ensures that the person you want in charge of practical decisions on your behalf is the person you choose. In Texas, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives someone the authority to engage in business, financial, and legal transactions on behalf of another. Alternatively, a Medical Power of Attorney gives someone the authority to make healthcare decisions for another in the case of mental incapacitation.
Advanced Medical Directives to Physicians
A living will informs physicians what you want to happen if you are disabled and not expected to recover from your illness. Typically, a living will documents how you want your end of life decisions to be made. For example, the document will include whether or not you want to use artificial methods to extend your life in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. After making the decisions for your living will, you should sit down with your family, inform them of your wishes, and then give a copy to all of your health care providers to be placed in your medical file.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law created to protect the privacy of healthcare information. Even with a Medical Power of Attorney document, there can still be some difficulty navigating around HIPAA to ensure that the person designated to act under your Medical Power of Attorney is allowed to access your medical records and information. The HIPAA Authorization document ensures that your healthcare provider and insurance company have no reservations about sharing your protected medical information with those who will be making medical decisions for you if you become disabled.
Declaration of Appointment of Guardian
A Declaration of Appointment of Guardian is a document allowing you to decide who you want to take care of your children if you become disabled or pass away. Without this document, there is a complicated legal procedure and the probate court decides who will care for your children. You may designate one single person to physically care for the children and to be responsible for the children’s money, or you may designate two separate people for these responsibilities. There are also two different methods for designating a guardian for minor children and for adults.