If you’ve listened to the news over the last two months, you’ve learned that the COVID-19 virus can strike just about anyone just about any time, regardless of how careful you are or how healthy you are. The initial presumption that COVID-19 was only a serious concern for elderly, otherwise health-compromised people has proven untrue. Because of that, I have received lots of calls from clients of all ages who suddenly realized it might be time for them to look at doing their estate planning.
It is sad that it takes something scary like the COVID-19 pandemic to remind us all that we do not know when our number may be up. However, if it prompts people to take the very important step of planning the disposition of their estate, and drawing up other important estate planning documents now, the end result is a good one.
4 Key Pieces Of Estate Planning And Why You Need Them
So, let’s review the key pieces of a good estate plan and why it’s important to have each piece.
If you do not have a Will, the laws of Texas will say what relatives get what share of your estate. For instance, if one spouse dies and the other still survives, and there are children from the deceased spouse's prior marriage (who are not also children of the surviving spouse), the deceased spouse’s one-half of community property goes to the children of the prior marriage.
Most spouses want the surviving spouse to receive his or her one-half of community property instead. You must have a Will to do this. If you want to assure that a specific person receives a specific asset on your death, such as a piece of land or jewelry or family antique, the only way to accomplish this is through a Will.
If you have a Will that includes provisions for independent administration of your estate (which any good Will should), a probate of the Will is much less expensive than other court proceedings to allow passage of title to real estate and other assets, and provide for their disposition to the person you desire.
For more information, see The Top 10 Reasons To Have A Will.
2. Statutory Durable Power Of Attorney
A statutory durable power of attorney determines who can handle your business affairs if you become incapable of doing it yourself.
If you do not have a power of attorney drawn up while you are still competent to provide for who can manage your affairs if you do become incompetent, a court-administered guardianship may be required.
Guardianship is a very expensive, time-consuming, possibly contentious, and burdensome process that could be avoided by drawing up a Power of Attorney. This way you get to designate the person or persons you trust to manage your assets if you are unable to rather than leaving it up to a court to decide without your input. For more information about how complicated and expensive a guardianship can be, see this blog.
3. Medical Power Of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney determines who can make health care decisions for you if you are not capable at the time of making them yourself.
If you are in an accident, or for any reason are unconscious or incapable of telling doctors or hospital staff what your wishes are for health care, the Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) spells out who you want to make those decisions for you. The MPOA usually is coupled with a Release for HIPAA information so the person you designate to make decisions has full access to your health care information.
If you do not have the MPOA and HIPAA release in place, your medical care, and certainly your personal wishes, can be jeopardized while medical staff sort out who can speak for you and what should be done.
4. Directive To Physicians (Living Will)
A Directive to Physicians (Living Will) makes it clear to health care providers that you do or do not want to be maintained on life support.
We are all familiar with heart-wrenching stories about family fights over whether a loved one, who cannot decide for himself or herself, should be kept alive while in a vegetative state. Many times this issue can hang over a family’s head for months or years.
This is a very personal decision for which you should make your wishes known before such a situation arises. You do this by spelling out in a Directive to Physicians or Living Will whether you do or do not want such measures to be used to sustain your life if your recovery seems unlikely.
How To Start The Estate Planning Process
If you are ready to take this important step in planning for the future, all you have to do is call my office or click the button to schedule a phone call or appointment. We will be happy to discuss prices with you after we learn more details about your particular needs. You may be surprised that estate planning is not as expensive as you might think.