When clients think of estate planning, they often think about wills and trusts. However, a well-executed estate plan encompasses more than just a will or trust; it is a comprehensive plan for what happens to you, your children, and your estate. Sprouse Shrader Smith PLLC, at a minimum, recommends that a basic estate plan should include a will and/or a trust, a Directive to Physicians, a Medical Power of Attorney, and a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney.
At the time of this article, Governor Abbott is allowing notary publics to appear by videoconference (i.e. Zoom) to execute certain estate planning documents so long as specifications from the COVID-19 Disaster Declaration are met. This temporary suspension of statutes in regard to notaries assists in the effort to socially distance during COVID-19 and allows important estate planning documents to be executed during these unprecedented times.
Wills in Texas
Many clients ask whether they really need a will or not. If you pass away without a will, Texas intestacy law determines how your property will be distributed. The intestacy laws take into account whether you were married, had children, and if the property you had was separate or community property. Thus, because of these various factors, it is advisable to have a will in Texas for the following reasons:
- You can direct who will receive your property upon your death and in what portions or percentages (including your beloved pets).
- You can choose how individuals will receive the assets and at what age.
- You can decide who will act as the executor of your estate and distribute your assets.
- You can designate a guardian of your child or children.
- You can discuss whether you will have a taxable estate and make further plans if necessary.
Directive to Physicians (Living Will)
A Directive to Physicians is also referred to as a living will. A Directive to Physicians is different than a “DNR” – do not resuscitate form—a DNR is actually completed by physicians. A Directive to Physicians instead expresses and communicates your wishes if you are suffering with a condition that is terminal or irreversible and informs your doctor and family of your wishes in those circumstances. A Directive to Physicians will state whether you choose to remain on artificial life support or not. It provides peace of mind about your end-of-life treatment options so others do not have to make the decision for you.
Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney, also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, allows you to designate someone to make health care treatment decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make health care decisions. The difference between a Directive to Physicians and a Medical Power of Attorney is that an Advanced Directive is strictly limited to life-sustaining treatment, and a Medical Power of Attorney appoints an agent to make health care treatment decisions for you when you are unable to do so.
Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (Financial Power of Attorney)
A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, also known as a Financial Power of Attorney, allows you to appoint an agent to manage your financial affairs. The primary reason to have a financial power of attorney is to ensure someone you trust has the authority to handle your financial matters in the event you become mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated. The agent must act according to the terms and limitations provided in the Power of Attorney.
If you would like to learn more about these estate planning documents or have questions, please let us know. Our estate planning attorneys stand ready to help you through these unprecedented times.