The magical number is seven; that is how many documents you need in Texas to cover the basics of estate planning.
This directs how your property will be disposed upon your death and appoints an executor. In Texas, a valid will has to be entirely in your handwriting or you must sign it in the presence of two witnesses. This a complicated area of law; there are hundreds of cases involving the validity of wills, contests of wills and interpretation of wills.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
This designates another person to act as your agent in financial matters. You must sign it in the presence of a notary. The writing must set forth the areas of responsibility that are being delegated to the agent. In 2017 the Texas law regarding the Durable Power of Attorney was completely rewritten.
Medical Power of Attorney
This designates another person to act as your agent to make medical decisions for you. You must sign it in the presence of two witnesses or a notary. Most Medical Powers of Attorney state that the agent may make any health care decision on the principal’s behalf that the principal could make if the principal were competent. The Texas statute requires that this document be in a specific form.
Directive to Physicians
Commonly known as a Living Will, this gives your instructions regarding the type of care you wish to receive (or avoid) in the event you have a terminal illness or an irreversible condition. It can be customized, but the rules for signing it, the required language and the impact of the document are highly technical.
Declaration of Guardian
This designates the person you want to serve as guardian of your person or estate if you become incapacitated. The Court is obligated to appoint the person you name unless that person is disqualified by law or would not serve your best interests. You can also disqualify a person from serving as your guardian in the Declaration. Like a will, the Declaration must be entirely in your handwriting or you must sign it before two witnesses.
Authorization for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
The HIPAA release is your written authorization for a person to obtain your medical records.
Appointment for Disposition of Remains
This contains your directions for the disposition of your remains upon your death, and designates your agent to control that disposition. It can include ceremonial instructions in case you would like a memorial or funeral service. You must sign the document in front of a notary. Your agent must sign the document to accept his or her appointment as agent.
Once you have these 7 in place, you can start to get fancy with trusts, transfer on death deeds and the like.
Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give us a call. We can help.
If you would like more information, come to The Sandwich Generation Forum on September 23, 2017 at the Intercontinental Dallas. It is a free half-day educational event. Learn more here: The Sandwich Generation Forum
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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.