Every Texan deserves to know that their family is taken care of and their affairs are in order should the worst happen. That’s why every plan at Texas Legal includes estate planning coverage – allowing you to get a will or a trust and other important documents such as powers of attorney and advanced directives, and update those documents once a year. These kinds of documents are often expensive, costing at least a couple of thousand dollars, the kind of money most folks don’t have on hand to pay for a stack of papers you hope you’ll never use. But with Texas Legal, you can afford to have these important documents and get the peace of mind knowing they’re there for you.
Do I need a Will or a Trust?
Wills and trusts are complex legal documents, and you deserve an experienced attorney to help you decide which one is right for you and tailor the solution to your needs. In an age of DIY will software and online solutions, it may seem like you can just “fill-in-the-blank” and get the estate planning you need. But experienced estate planning attorneys have seen countless cases where these DIY documents did not protect their clients and actually created further problems for their families. With Texas Legal, you can have the peace of mind that your estate planning is done right and the documents you have fit your unique situation.
The most basic estate planning document is a will – a document that expresses your wishes as to who would inherit your property and assets if you were to die. A will can also designate a guardian for any minor children. If you die without a will in place, state formulas decide how your assets are divided up. This process, called probate, can be lengthy and expensive for your family, leaving them with administrative headaches during a time of grief and stress. A simple will can take care of these problems and leave them in a better situation.
As a Texas Legal member, you can also choose to put your assets in a trust, a legal entity set up to control your assets. To create a trust, you first set it up, and then take all of your assets – your house, your car, your property, your accounts – and re-title them in the name of the trust. While a will only takes effect once you die, a trust is set up while you’re alive. You maintain control of the trust and all of its assets until you pass away. In addition to creating the trust, you name trustees – people who are in charge of the assets in the trust – and beneficiaries – people who will receive the trust’s assets.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is an important document that lays out your wishes about what should happen if you are unable to make your own choices. Through this document, you are appointing a representative (referred to as your attorney) to act as your proxy in order to carry out your wishes. Your durable power of attorney states who may act on your behalf for financial and legal affairs if you die or become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself. Medical power of attorney documents state who has the power to make medical decisions for you in case you are unable to make decisions for yourself. It should include a privacy consent form that allows that person to access your medical records so they can make informed decisions.
Living Will or Advanced Directive
A living will allows you to make decisions about what care you receive if you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition and can’t advocate for yourself. It allows you to determine what life saving measures or treatments you do or do not want. This essential document can save your family a lot of grief and stress when deciding how to proceed with medical treatments in the event that you were unable to decide for yourself.
Other Documents: HIPAA Release, Disposition of Remains, Financial Beneficiaries
It’s also wise to include a HIPPA release in your estate planning. HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a 1996 law that governs what health information can be released about a patient. A HIPAA release form allows you to choose what family members or important people would have access to your confidential medical information. A Disposition of Remains document specifies what you would like done with your body if you were to die. This can be helpful to people who have specific religious customs that are important to them, or if you’d like to specify that your body be donated for a specific purpose, such as scientific advancement. An attorney can also help you look over your documents with financial institutions and make sure that you have the correct beneficiaries listed so that assets would pass to your beneficiaries without any additional legal hassle for them.
Updating Your Will or Trust
Your Texas Legal membership allows you to meet with an attorney once a year to review your estate planning documents and make any changes that need to be made. An update to will is made with a legal document called a codicil. Attorneys generally recommend you check in about your estate planning documents every five years, or sooner if you’ve made any big changes in your life, like moving to a new house, getting married or divorced, or having a child. With Texas Legal, you can always be sure that these important documents keep protecting you and your family.
Probate and Heirship Determinations
Should a family member pass away, you can get an attorney’s help through the process of probate. If your family member had a will, an attorney can assist you with the probate process and the administration of assets. Our plans also provide coverage if family member did not have a will, and you need an heirship determination to decide how the assets will be distributed.
Finding an Estate Planning Attorney
To find a Texas Legal estate planning attorney near you, use our online attorney finder, selecting “Estate Planning” under Area of Law, and choosing the legal issue that best matches your situation. Then put in your location or other specifics to find someone that meets your needs.