Perspectives on Estate Planning: Beyond a Will – What Documents Do I Need?
What documents should an individual include in their Estate Plan? At Redding Law, we recognize that every case is unique; however, we generally recommend the following legal documents be included in all of our estate plans to address common legal issues:
Last Will & Testament
Read about “What is a Will?” in our prior blog entry, “The Basics, Vol. 1.01. What is a Will” Click HERE to read more.
Durable Power of Attorney
A document which allows Person A, acting as a “principal,” to appoint Person B to act for them as an “agent,” meaning that the Agent can manage the Principal’s property and make financial decisions on the Principal’s behalf. Texas’ promulgated statutory form can be adjusted to allow an agent to act for you immediately – common when appointing a spouse as agent – or only when you become incapacitated (unable to act for yourself). This document can also be customized to grant an agent only limited powers to act on your behalf – for example to sign for a specific real estate purchase when the principal is not available.
Medical Power of Attorney
A document which allows Person A, acting as “principal,” to appoint Person B to act for them as an “agent,” specifically for the purpose of making medical decisions. This type of power-of-attorney (or P.O.A.) only becomes effective when the Principal becomes incapacitated.
A document which allows Person A to appoint Person B (or Persons B, C, and D) to access the first individual’s medical records. In addition to doctor’s offices and hospitals, other related businesses such as health insurance companies may require this release to access medical records.
Advance Directive to Family & Physicians
This document, also sometimes known as a Living Will, allows Person A to express their wishes as to their end-of-life care so that Person B and Person A’s Physicians are aware in advance as to how Person A would want their medical care handled in the event of a terminal or irreversible condition.
Declaration of Guardian for Self
A document which allows Person A to appoint Person B as their Legal Guardian if Person A ever needs a Court to appoint a legal guardian for them. With proper planning, hopefully an individual should never need a Guardian – as Guardianships are Court supervised proceedings which can be restrictive, time-consuming, and expensive. This document will nominate a person or people to serve as Guardian of the Person and/or Guardian of the Estate of Person A. The same person may serve in both roles or different people may be appointed. Additionally, and very importantly, this document allows Person A to disqualify a person or multiple persons from serving as Person A’s Guardian.
Declaration of Guardian for Minor Children
A document which allows Person A to appoint those persons that they would want to become the Legal Guardians of Person A’s minor children.
Appointment of Agent for Disposition of Remains
A document which allows Person A to appoint Person B to make funeral decisions for Person A after Person A has passed away. In addition, Person A can use this document to express their wishes regarding their funeral, especially important, to indicate whether they would like to be cremated or buried.
As no client’s situation is every truly standard or average, in addition to the documents listed above, specialized and more complicated situations may call additional planning and preparation or more complex or separate legal documents such as: Revocable Living Trusts, Revocable Management Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Spendthrift or Asset Protections Trusts, Educational Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Charitable Entities, and Business Entities.