Many people mistakenly believe that a last will and testament document is all they will need. Of course, we at Youngblood Law, PLLC, do recommend having an up-to-date will, but we recommend executing several other documents as well. The main risk to having only a will is simple. If a person has only a will and suddenly dies a quick death, then the will is adequate. But what if the death comes after weeks or months in the hospital? What if the person lies in a vegetative state for years and cannot conduct his or her own business? Any number of possible situations could occur at any time that put a person in a position that requires others to provide care. The following documents help with that care.
Note that all of these documents require a person to freely grant or bestow powers upon another. The process cannot be done in reverse! For example, if a person becomes incapacitated, a loving family member cannot get a power of attorney over the injured person. If no power of attorney existed before the incapacitation, it cannot be made after the incapacitation. It’s too late. That’s why we call these “pre-need” documents. They MUST be executed before they are needed.
In the following descriptions, the “Principal” is the person who grants the powers to another. The person who receives the powers from the Principal is called the “Agent” or sometimes the “Attorney in Fact”. The Agent has a legal duty to act only for the benefit of the Principal. All of these documents can be revoked at any time by the Principal, and new Agents and/or different powers can be granted.
A Financial Power of Attorney
The Texas Estates Code defines the powers that are available in a standard power of attorney. This document allows the Principal to bestow specific powers upon an Agent. All of the powers that can be bestowed in this document are business related and include authorization to conduct banking, real estate transactions, and much more. The Agent is allowed only to conduct lawful business on behalf of the Principal.
A Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney allows the Principal to designate an Agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the Principal if the Principal is incapacitated. Decisions that can be made include treatment regimen, types of care, providers of the care, and more. The Agent cannot make decisions that conflict with the Principal’s Advance Directive To Physician (Living Will).
Advance Directive To Physician (Living Will)
This document is both simple and difficult. It is simple in that there are only two decisions to be made. It is difficult in that the decisions themselves are not easy. Under two specific fact patterns Texas allows people to make the decision to be kept on life support and receive treatment, or to be removed from life support and treatment and allowed to die as peacefully and painlessly as possible. The decision to be kept alive no matter the cost or to be allowed to die peacefully is a deeply personal decision that requires much soul searching in most cases. The Agent who has the Medical Power of Attorney cannot override the decisions in the Directive to Physician.
Designation of Guardian
In the case of long term incapacitation, sometimes a guardian is required for a person. A good example of this would be an adult who suffers a stroke and is left needing care for the duration of his life. The designation of guardian allows the person to choose who he would want to be the guardian of his body and who will be the guardian of his estate. The same guardian can fill both roles, but it is common to have one person handle the Principal’s estate, and someone else care for the Principal’s personal needs.
If you have been to a clinic or hospital for care any time recently, you know the medical provider will have you sign a HIPPA release. Nevertheless, a generic HIPPA release is a simple document that every will package should have in case the Principal wishes to authorize her Agent to receive confidential medical information.
Transfer Upon Death Deed
This document is relatively new in Texas. It allows for real estate to be transferred upon the death of an owner of the property. In many cases where someone passes away owning only a home and small personal belongings, a transfer upon death deed will allow the home to be transferred to a surviving spouse without the need to probate the estate. This will likely save a few thousand dollars in legal fees.
There are other documents that can be added to a complete will package such as a final arrangement directive and a specific bequest document. Likewise, a video with a final message left for heirs can be included. But no will package is complete without the above documents.
At Youngblood Law, PLLC, we always recommend our clients purchase the peace of mind that is provided only with a complete will package. That said, we will provide a client with individual documents if that is what the client wants or needs. For example, if a client is going out of town and only wants a power of attorney, we can provide that a la cart. For more information about testamentary documents, click here.
Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm that uses a holistic approach to help people get on with their new life by getting done with their old life. We believe that a thoughtful will package is family law, and we offer a robust selection of testamentary and other documents our clients need to confidently move on with their new lives. This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel. If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC. For more information, contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com, or on your mobile device, open your browser and type in lawfw.biz and press Go.
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