Estate Planning Must-Haves: Will, Medical, & Durable Powers of Attorney
You may think that when you pass away, your estate automatically descends to your spouse, children, or next of kin. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While they may eventually inherit some or all of your estate, the process is not automatic and can be quite difficult and expensive for your loved ones if you die intestate (without a will). So, what should you do?
The answer is estate planning. By getting a few things squared away now, such as a last will and testament, you can ensure that your estate is taken care of for future generations. Furthermore, by setting up medical and durable powers of attorney, you can also rest assured that your wishes regarding your own future care are followed. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is the Purpose of a Will?
When someone passes away without a will, their estate not only must go through the probate process, but the courts will decide how their estate will be divided and distributed and to whom. While the Texas Estates Code guides the courts in probating wills, this does not mean that they will make the same decisions as you will.
The purpose of a will is to outline how you want your estate managed and distributed to your heirs. Many people mistakenly assume that their estate will instantly and easily pass on to their spouse, children, or other relatives when they die. Furthermore, many people believe that the title to any property they have will automatically transfer to their surviving spouse. Again, this is not the case and can create a major headache for your loved ones down the road.
For example, when the surviving spouse passes, their family will have first to sort out the estate of the original titleholder before they can address the surviving spouse's estate. This slows down the entire probate process and delays your heirs' ability to access your estate. By creating a will, you can avoid this and ensure that your estate is managed according to your wishes.
The following can all be addressed in your will:
- Any significant assets you hold
- Who you want to serve as the executor or administrator of your estate
- Which heirs you want to inherit what
- Who you want to serve as guardian for any minor children or other dependents you have
- Any charitable donations you want to make
When you make your will, you will list your assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, etc. You will also have the opportunity to note down any important sentimental items and who you want them passed down to. You can even make provisions for your beloved pets!
Do I Need an Attorney?
It is always recommended that you work with a skilled estate planning attorney, like ours, at the Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLC. Not only will your lawyer help you draft and register your will with the courts, but they are also an invaluable resource for your heirs when the time comes to probate your will.
But is that all you need? While a will is an excellent place to start, we highly recommend that your next steps be establishing two important powers of attorney: durable and medical. Keep reading to find out why.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document with which you can grant another individual to make certain decisions or take certain actions on your behalf. There are several different types of powers of attorney, including general and limited powers of attorney, medical power of attorney, or other special powers of attorney.
Your specific needs will determine what types of powers of attorney you establish. However, two of the most important and which you should consider establishing as part of your estate planning are durable and medical powers of attorney.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney (sometimes referred to as a statutory power of attorney) allows the principal (the person establishing the POA) to grant the agent (the person who act on behalf of the principal) a broad range of permissions, including access to bank accounts and the ability to buy and sell property. These permissions are granted if/when the principal becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions.
As we age, it is not uncommon for people to develop degenerative cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer's. Having a durable power of attorney on record ensures that a trustworthy person of your choosing will be there to follow your wishes and ensure you get the care you need and that your estate is well-managed. Having a durable power of attorney in place now can help give you peace of mind.
Medical Power of Attorney
Just as a durable POA grants your agent the right to make important financial decisions on your behalf, a medical power of attorney (MPOA) allows your named agent to make important health care decisions on your behalf. Your agent will then make decisions based on your wishes and in accordance with any important religious or moral beliefs you hold. An MPOA is a type of advanced directive and is incredibly important as it impacts the kind of health care you will receive if you become incapacitated or cannot make these decisions for yourself.
What Comes Next?
At the Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLC, we know how important it is to have a solid estate plan. We believe that a will plus durable and medical powers of attorney are great places to start if you are just beginning your estate planning. But what comes next? The other estate planning tools you use will depend on your individual needs and goals. Schedule an appointment with our team to figure out which estate planning tools are best for you.
As an experienced estate planning law firm, we have developed long-lasting relationships with our clients and their families. When the time comes, we are here to support you and your family members with a comprehensive range of estate planning services. Send us a message online today to get started.