Estate Planning: Proper estate planning allows you to control how your estate passes both during your lifetime and upon your death. Proper estate planning can significantly decrease the stress and financial burdens on your loved ones when you pass. Estate planning most commonly involves wills, trusts, transfer on death deeds, and naming beneficiaries on certain assets. We can create a plan that best suits your needs and may involve tools other than those listed above.
Incapacity Planning: Incapacity planning allows you to control who will make significant life decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The most frequently used documents include trusts, statutory durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, directives to physicians, and HIPAA authorizations. When a person becomes incapacitated without planning documents in place, he or she has no control at that point on who manages their estate or their health care. Further, failing to have incapacity planning documents in place can result in significant costs and court involvement.
Guardianship: A guardianship is a court supervised process when someone is named to manage your financial and/or personal affairs. Because guardianships are an ongoing court supervised process that can be expensive, they are to be avoided if possible. We can help you determine if the facts of your case will require a guardianship.
Examples of Estate and Incapacity Planning Documents
Last Will and Testament (“Will”): A will allows you to (1) pass your property to the beneficiary of your choice, (2) appoint an estate representative (an independent executor), and (3) authorize the independent executor to act free from Court supervision once he or she has filed certain required documents with the probate court. A will provides for the appointment of an independent executor who, in Texas, operates independently of the probate court after the will is admitted to probate and the inventory has been filed. This makes probate in Texas very simple.
Living Trust: Living trusts are designed to hold title to your assets while you are living. At your death, title to the trust assets passes as you direct in the trust, without the necessity of probate.
Financial Power of Attorney: Powers of attorney are designed to avoid the complication, expense, and trouble of a Court supervised guardianship which could be required if you suffer a stroke, senility, Alzheimer’s, an automobile accident, or any other disabling, incapacitating event. A power of attorney only provides your agent with the power to act on your behalf while you are alive. Therefore, your named agent in a power of attorney can no longer act for you upon your death.
Medical Power of Attorney: Medical powers of attorney authorize your designated agent to make health care decisions for you without the necessity of a Court supervised guardianship. Guardianships are court supervised and can be expensive and therefore should be avoided when possible.
HIPAA Designation: The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 45 CFR Sec. 164.508 limits disclosure of your medical information unless authorized by you. Executing a HIPAA document allows you to tell your medical providers with whom he or she can share your medical information.
Declaration of Potential Guardian: Declarations of potential guardian supplement the financial and medical powers of attorney. A declaration of guardian allows you to tell a Court (1) whom you want to act as your guardian should the need arise, and (2) who you do not want to be named as your guardian.
Appointment of Children's Guardian in the Event of Parent's Death or Incapacity: This document appoints the persons you have selected to serve as guardians for your minor children should you die or become incapacitated. This information can also be included in a will.
Directive to Physicians “Living Wills”: A directive to physicians allows you to tell your doctor in advance when you want medical treatment and life support withheld in the event you become unable to communicate. The directive to physicians form contains very specific restrictive guidelines as to when the document applies. We can help you to determine if you want to execute a directive to physicians.
Funeral Power of Attorney “FPOA”: Because a statutory durable power of attorney ceases to be effective upon your death, you have the ability to execute a funeral power of attorney. A funeral power of attorney allows you to appoint one or more individuals to make your funeral arrangements following your death. A funeral power of attorney is appropriate if you believe there might be conflicts between family members as to how your funeral and burial should be conducted or if you have no immediate family members to make your final arrangements following your death. Even if you have a pre-paid funeral plan, it is still appropriate to have a funeral power of attorney if the conditions discussed above exist because of last minute details not covered in the prepaid plan.
Estate planning attorneys Sarah Everett Fowler, Kelly DeBerry, Blair Norman, Catherine Norman & Roger Norman