Having a will that successfully transfers your assets under Texas and federal law is the most important estate planning document you can have, and is very likely the only one you will need. However, a thorough and well-drafted estate plan will include several other documents covering every possibility or contingency, no matter how remote or unlikely. These include the the following documents:
Austin estate planning attorney Faren Smith offers all of these estate planning documents with every will package provided to clients of the Law Office of Farren Smith, should they desire them.
Durable Powers of Attorney
Durable powers of attorney designate another person or persons to manage and control your finances. Once signed, this document is effective immediately and does not depend on your later incapacity or lack of ability to manage your own affairs. Needless to say, you should make sure that each person you designate as your agent is a person you trust completely and implicitly. Your agent has the power do many things on your behalf; for example, they may open and close bank accounts, acquire credit cards, sign your tax returns, and buy and sell assets like vehicles or real estate. These are just a few of the powers you may choose to give to your agent. However, you may limit or eliminate the extent of each and every power available as you see fit, and we will guide you through this process to ensure your goals are addressed. A durable power of attorney drafted according to Texas law is valid within the state, however, an out-of-state practitioner should be consulted if you have assets in other states.
Medical Powers of Attorney and Combination Directives to Physicians (also known as the “Living Will”)
The combination directives to physicians and medical powers of attorney appoints another person or group of people acting jointly to make health care decisions for you when you are incapacitated and cannot make them for yourself. Unless you limit or restrict some of the powers granted to your agent(s), some of these powers include consenting, refusing to consent, or withdrawing consent to medical treatment, for example whether to continue life-sustaining treatments like breathing machines and feeding tubes. Like durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney drafted according to Texas law are valid within the state, however, an out-of-state practitioner should be consulted if you want to ensure it will be valid in other states as well. This document differs from the durable power of attorney in that your agents may exercise this power only if you are unable to make medical decisions yourself, and your physician certifies that you are unable to make medical decisions in writing. Definitions of particular conditions and treatments such as “life-sustaining treatment” and “artificial nutrition and hydration” are listed in the document.
If your religious or personal convictions dictate that you receive or not receive certain types of treatment, the document can be altered to reflect those preferences. If you would like to make any changes to the text of the document, we are happy to accommodate you and answer any questions you may have.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known by its acronym “HIPAA” protects patients form unauthorized disclosure of their medical information under certain circumstances. The HIPAA release document allows the person or persons you designate to receive all of your medical information, unless you affirmatively limit the disclosure in some way. Because HIPAA is a federal law, a properly-drafted HIPAA release will be valid not only in Texas but in every state for the purposes of allowing disclosures under HIPAA.
Declarations of Guardianship
Declarations of guardianship are documents that allow you to control who will become your legal guardian in the event that you are unable to care for yourself and/or your finances. The guardian of your person is responsible for taking care of you personally, and the guardian of your estate is responsible for managing your financial affairs and assets. In Texas, the same person may occupy both roles, or you may assign someone different to each role.
An appointment of guardian for minor children is functionally the same as a declaration of guardianship for an adult, except that it allows the current parent(s) or guardian to choose who would be responsible for the person and/or the estate of your child should you be the last-surviving caretaker to pass away. This provision is also typically drafted into your will as well.
If you have any questions about the ancillary documents commonly drafted in addition to wills in Texas or anything else regarding estate planning law, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone at (512) 251-4553 for an initial consultation. Other contact information is listed in the upper right-hand area of this page, and a contact form is also available on our contact page