Part 4: If you don’t have a WILL, the State of Texas has one for you!

By Lorie Burch, Owner & Founding Attorney of Burch Law

This article provides information of a broad general nature only. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal or tax advice.

If you are part of the majority of parents, you still have not prepared a Will, a medical or financial power of attorney, or a living will (directive to physicians). You probably haven’t named who would be the guardian of your child and you probably haven’t created a trust for your child in the event you pass away before your child is old enough or responsible enough to handle money. If you do have this essential planning, are you keeping it up-to-date? Not only could your personal circumstances change, but the law changes as well. If you are indeed in this group, you need to start asking yourself some important questions, such as:

  • Do you want a judge choosing the guardian of your children?
  • Do you want a judge deciding how your money and property will be used to support your children?
  • Do you want a judge determining how your money and property will be divided?
  • If you were in an accident, who would pay your bills?
  • If you were incapacitated or disabled, who would make the right medical decisions for you?

With a properly written, Texas-specific Will, you can provide for your family in the manner that you see fit, not in accordance with a court that does not know your personal circumstances. Through your Will, you can determine the guardian of your children as well as set up trusts for your children. Additionally, there are a number of other planning options you have beyond your Will that are essential in protecting your family from prolonged court battles and excessive costs during a time when they are suffering a great loss. The following are explanations of some of the planning tools that you may want to consider:

What are Living Wills and Directives to Physicians?

A Directive to Physician is the Texas document that is commonly referred to as a living will. This document instructs physicians to withhold or administer artificial life-sustaining procedures in the event of a terminal condition.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A Medical Power of Attorney designates an agent to make medical decisions if you are unable to make them.

What is a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney?

A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (or financial Power of Attorney) designates an agent to make financial decisions and control property on your behalf.  For example, if you are in an accident and are in the hospital, your agent could help pay your bills and manage your financial affairs in your absence.

What is a HIPAA Release Authority?

A HIPAA Release Authority is a document that specifies who may have access to your medical records. For example, most clients will name the same individuals as in their Medical Power of Attorney so that they may have access to your medical records if they have to make medical decisions on your behalf.

What other documents should I be thinking about?

  • Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains – This document allows you to specify one or more individuals to be in control of your funeral and burial arrangements. This document also allows you to specify your wishes regarding such arrangements.
  • Gift By A Living Donor – This document allows you to make organ, tissue or body part donations and to specify whether such donations can be used for medical, scientific or education purposes.
  • Declaration of Guardian in Event of Later Incapacity or Need of Guardian – This document allows adults to designate one or more individuals to be his or her guardian if s/he is declared incapacitated or incompetent.
  • Designation of Agent to Make Health Care Decisions for Children – This document allows you to appoint one or more individuals to make health care decisions for your child or children. Consent may be given for medical, dental, psychological, and surgical treatment. This document also gives the appointed individuals the right to travel with the child or children if needed.
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