Estate Planning for Texans (Estate Planning FAQs)

Estate Planning for Texans

(Estate Planning FAQs)

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of preparing for potential incapacity, and for death.

Smart estate planning involves more than just planning for death.  It includes planning for any event (e.g., illness or injury) that could leave you unable to properly care for yourself, or to manage your property or assets.

Smart estate planning seeks to ensure that if you are ever unable to care for yourself (or for your minor children) or to properly manage your affairs, a trusted family member, friend, or adviser has been appointed to act in your place as an agent or guardian.

In addition, smart estate planning seeks to ensure that upon death your estate is distributed according to your wishes, and that a trusted family member, friend, or adviser has been appointed to act as guardian and/or trustee for any minor children.

Who Should Undertake Estate Planning?

Every responsible adult needs to prepare for potential incapacity, and for death.

If you become unable to properly care for yourself (or for your minor children, if any), estate planning can help ensure someone you trust is authorized to act on your behalf with respect to health and personal matters.

If you become unable to manage your property or assets, estate planning can help ensure someone you trust is authorized to act on your behalf (and for your minor children, if any) with respect to financial matters.

And, upon your death, estate planning can help ensure someone you trust is appointed to:

  • act as guardian for your minor children, if any;
  • collect any estate assets and handle any claims of, or against, your estate;
  • distribute estate assets to the beneficiaries you have chosen; and
  • act as trustee for any beneficiaries who are minors.

Even if you do not currently have a large estate, estate planning is warranted.

Irrespective of your financial situation, unexpected injury or illness can leave you unable to properly care for yourself, or to manage your property or assets.  Estate planning can help you prepare for any such potential incapacity.

Likewise, irrespective of your financial situation, unexpected injury or illness can result in your death.  Estate planning can help ensure that your minor children, if any, are cared for by someone you trust.  In addition, estate planning can help ensure that someone you trust is appointed to handle any claims belonging to your estate.  For example, if you are injured due to the negligence of another, estate planning can help ensure that someone you trust is appointed to pursue a claim against the negligent party for the benefit of your estate/estate beneficiaries.

What is the Estate Planning Process?

Estate planning typically involves:

  1. Consultation with an Attorney;
  1. Document Preparation; and
  1. Signing of Documents with Attorney Supervision to Ensure Compliance with Necessary Statutory Formalities

What are Some Typical Estate Planning Documents?

The following documents are some typical estate planning documents you may want to discuss with your attorney:

  • Financial Powers of Attorney
  • Medical Powers of Attorney
  • Directives to Physicians
  • Wills
  • Revocable Transfer on Death Deeds
  • Trusts

What Estate Planning Documents Help Plan for Illness and Incapacity

The following estate planning documents can help you plan for potential illness and incapacity:

Durable Power of Attorney (Property and Finances)

  • Appoints a trusted family member, friend, or adviser as an agent to act on your behalf in a variety of financial and legal matters if for some reason you cannot.

 Medical Power of Attorney—Designation of Health Care Agent (a/k/a Health Care Proxy)

  • Appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (a/k/a “Living Will” a/k/a Advance Health Care Directive)

  • Expresses your preferences about certain aspects of end-of-life care (e., which medical care and life-sustaining treatments you would like if you are unable to make your own medical decisions) rather than leaving such decisions up to others.

HIPAA Release and Authorization for Disclosure of Protected Health Information

  • Authorizes health care providers to disclose health care information concerning you to your designated agent.

 Declaration of Guardian (for Your Person and Your Estate) in the Event of Later Incapacity or Need for Guardian

  • Designates a trusted family member, friend, or adviser as your guardian should the need arise.

Appointment of Guardian for Your Children in the Event of Your Death or Incapacity

  • Appoints a trusted family member, friend, or adviser as guardian for your children in the event you die or become incapacitated.

What Estate Planning Documents Help Plan for Death

The following estate planning documents can help you plan for potential illness and incapacity:

Will (with Contingent Trusts for Beneficiaries under a Specified Age, and with a Self-Proving Affidavit)

  • Appoints a guardian for minor children;
  • Names persons who are to receive estate assets;
  • Creates contingent trust(s) for minor children;
  • Names an executor—the individual or institution that takes charge of your estate after you die, settles the estate, and distributes property as you have directed in the Will.
Important Disclaimer:  This article/post does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship, is not intended as a solicitation, and is not made for the purpose of providing legal advice. The information in this article/post is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as either legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. This article/post is not intended to be comprehensive or to convey or constitute legal advice on which you may rely.  You should not act upon any information in this article/post without first obtaining professional legal counsel.  If you need legal advice about your specific legal issue(s), you should hire and consult with a lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
James G. Gumbert
Attorney and Counselor at Law
8225 Westglen Drive
Houston, Texas 77063-6307
713.942.7900
713.942.8530 fax

 

Principal office located in Houston, Texas
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