Yul Brynner, take a seat.
This article is much more exciting than any old 1960’s Western about 7 gunslingers who rescue a Mexican village from the bandit Calvera. Just hum the theme song as you read along.
Magnificent Seven Estate Planning Documents
The “Magnificent Seven” is my shorthand name for the 7 basic estate planning documents that every adult resident in Texas should have: a will, statutory durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, HIPAA release, directive to physicians, declaration of guardian, and designation of burial agent. Here is a brief description of each document.
A will is the cornerstone of your estate planning. It gives your instructions for payment of your debts and division of your assets upon your death. It should also name your executor. A will is not effective until after you die, and a judge has determined that the will is valid. If you die without a will, then Texas law determines who inherits your property. In Texas, wills are simple documents with complicated rules.
2. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney
Your statutory durable power of attorney names your agent to handle your financial affairs during your lifetime. Your agent’s authority extends only to those matters that you specifically name. Most statutory powers of attorney are immediately effective and continue even if you are disabled. Signing a statutory durable power of attorney does not diminish your right to continue to handle your own financial affairs. If you become mentally incapacitated and you do not have a statutory durable power of attorney, then we will probably have to go to court to have someone named to pay your bills and manage your assets.
3. Medical Power of Attorney
Your medical power of attorney names an agent to make your medical decisions if you are unable to make them yourself. If you do not have one, then Texas law sets out a default list of relatives who will make your medical decisions.
4. HIPAA Release
Your HIPAA release names the people you have authorized to receive your medical information. It does not, by itself, give anyone authority to make decisions for you.
5. Directive to Physicians
Your directive to physicians contains your instructions regarding whether you want your life prolonged through artificial means if you have been diagnosed with either an irreversible condition or a terminal illness that is going to lead to your death within 6 months. The document can be tailored to certain situations or conditions. You can override your written directive at any time. If you are incapacitated and cannot make a decision, then it will be up to the agent you named in your medical power of attorney to make the final call.
6. Declaration of Guardian
Your declaration of guardian names the people you want to serve as the guardian of your estate and your person in the event you become incapacitated. This document also allows you to prohibit certain people from being appointed as your guardian. If you don’t have this document, then Texas law helpfully prioritizes relatives to serve as your guardian.
7. Designation of Burial Agent
Your designation of burial agent names the people you want to have authority to make the final arrangements for your body. You can describe the arrangements in detail. Without this document, Texas law again rides to the rescue with a list of relatives who can make the decisions.
The Magnificent Seven should see you through most disasters. Without the Magnificent Seven, you and your relatives are at the mercy of Texas law and the court system.
That is something to consider as you vanquish villains and ride into the sunset.
Hammerle Finley Can Help with Legal Estate Planning
Virginia Hammerle is an accredited estate planner and represents clients in estate planning, probate, guardianship and contested litigation. She may be reached at email@example.com. This blog contains general information only and does not constitute legal advice.