Blogs :: 5 Legal Documents to Absolutely Have

There are fewer things in life that are more certain than we are not as young as we used to be and the likelihood is that we will continue in this trend. From a legal standpoint, having certain documentation in place will ensure that your future wishes will be honored and that there will be someone you trust to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so.

Here are some documents that are suggested and a brief description of what they are and how they can help:

Power of Attorney: a Power of Attorney authorizes someone to act and make business and financial decisions on behalf of someone else. There are different types of powers of attorney but, in this case, a statutory, or durable, power of attorney is a document which will allow someone to access bank accounts and authorize another party to sell property or make other business or financial-type decisions. For those who are discussing powers of attorney with elderly parents and meeting with resistance as parents may not want their children in their business, powers of attorney can be set up to take effect immediately or at the time of incapacitation.

Medical Power of Attorney: a Medical Power of Attorney allows your chosen agent to make any and all health care decisions for you when you are not able to make them for yourself or discuss your condition with your doctor. This document allows you to speak with doctors about the condition of your loved one. Like a durable power of attorney, this document can become effective immediately or at the time of incapacitation.

HIPAA: HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and addresses health privacy of an individual. It protects a patient’s sensitive health information from being disclosed without the patient’s knowledge or consent. Without this document, family members cannot access patient health information. Having a signed HIPAA document allows you to request digital and paper records of your loved one.

Physician’s Directive: a Physician’s Directive (also known as Advanced Directive or Living Will) makes your wishes known in advance of catastrophic illness or injury. The directive covers end-of-life decisions that are clearly laid out according to a person’s wishes. This relieves family members who may already be in an emotional state from having to make critical end-of-life decisions.

Will: a Will is a comprehensive document that spells out your wishes for the future and helps your heirs understand how you want your assets distributed and your minor (or Special Needs) children cared for after you’re no longer here. Identifying successor guardians, trustees, and an executor clearly spells out how to divide your assets according to your wishes and who will take care of your children. In Texas, minor children cannot own property so making sure you do not leave assets directly to them is an important part of Estate Planning. Plus, without having a Will naming successor guardians for your children, the court will follow Texas Intestate procedures which may appoint a family member you would not choose to be a successor guardian. Having a Will leaves no doubt as to your final wishes and saves your family from an often lengthy and expensive probate process.

Should you currently have a Will that was created some time ago, an attorney may be able to draft a codicil to your Will if your situation and wishes have changed. Your attorney can advise you on the best way to maintain an updated Will.

Bonus Document: Right of Survivorship: a Right of Survivorship concerns jointly owned property and what happens to it upon the death of one of the owners. A Right of Survivorship is filed with the county deed office and allows for the immediate transfer of ownership to the surviving spouse once an affidavit of death is filed with the county deed office. In Texas, without a Right of Survivorship on the jointly owned property, the property must go through probate since it is still sitting in the deceased spouse’s estate.

We are always here to help you and your family plan for the future. Contact our office to schedule time to meet with an Estate Planning attorney to discuss your family’s needs.

See More Blogs