Contingency Planning

Planning For the Future

There are several planning documents you should consider having prepared in order to protect you and your family.  This article introduces the most common.

Estate Planning Documents to Consider:

Your Will

Your will serves several purposes. A properly drawn will can determine the disposition of your property upon your death. In the event that you pass away without a will, Texas law does provide for your property to pass to certain members of your family. You may, however, wish to leave some property to other individuals, your church, or a charity. You may wish to leave your property to your family in different divisions than the law provides.

Moreover, a properly drawn will can be used to designate the individual that you wish to handle your estate. Such a designation can help assure that your estate is handled by someone you trust. Preparing a will which names your executor can also help to minimize conflict among individuals that might want to administer your estate at the time of your death.

Finally, a will can determine the amount of court oversight that is required to administer your estate. In Texas your will can provide for an “independent administration”, which results in minimal oversight by the courts in an uncontested will.

Living Trusts

A living trust is a trust created during an individual’s lifetime which is designed to avoid probate and the need for a will. A living trust works by holding all of your property in Trust. When you pass away, your trust holds or conveys your property in accordance with the terms of the trust. Since you do not own any property, no one has to probate your estate. In some cases, such a trust may benefit a Texas resident, but they should always be prepared by an attorney.

Durable Power of Attorney 

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document which authorizes another individual to act as your agent in handling matters on your behalf. A Durable Power of Attorney can be especially valuable to elderly and incapacitated individuals by authorizing a spouse, children, or other close individual to deal with third parties.

Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical Power of Attorney designates the individual that you desire to make medical decisions for you in the event that due to injury or accident, you can not make them yourself. This document is designed to decrease conflicts between your friends and family during a crisis by pre-selecting the individual that will serve as your medical representative.

Directive to Physicians (Living Will)

A Directive to Physicians, also known as a “Living will” is a document which allows you to elect to have life support systems turn off in certain carefully defined situations. In the alternative, the document can be used to request that life support not be turned off, even under the same circumstances.

Declaration of Guardian

A Declaration of Guardian is a document through which an individual can pre-select another individual to serve as their guardian in the event that they become incompetent to handle their own affairs due to injury, accident, or other health concerns. A Court finding is required to determine that an individual is in need of a Guardian.  A predesignation of the Guardian can, however, simplify such proceedings in the event that they become necessary.

Disposition of Remains

The law allows you to designate in advance the individual that you desire to take care of all arrangement regarding your final remains. This document can be used to dictate any desires you have with regard to your final arrangements and burial.

Consulting an Attorney

If you have questions concerning estate planning documents, or how matters are handled in the event that you do not have the appropriate document at the appropriate time, you should consult an Attorney licensed in the State of Texas.     You may also want to consult an attorney if you currently have estate planning documents, but you have had a significant change in your circumstances, such as a divorce, marriage, death of a spouse or child, or if your documents were originally prepared while you resided in another state.

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