There are five basic documents that are used most often in estate planning in Texas. They are the will, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPPA release and the revocable trust. Within those categories, there are occasionally sub-documents that may be preferred or applicable. Optimally, the choice of documents will be made in consultation with one's estate planning attorney.
One of the glaring risks of not creating an estate plan is the failure to have a durable power of attorney. That document protects the maker and his or her beneficiaries should the maker become incapacitated and unable to carry out his or her affairs. It gives the power to another person to sign the maker's name and make business and other decisions regarding the maker.
The power of attorney is crucial because without it, the next of kin may have to retain an attorney and appear in court to get a guardian appointed. That will be an expensive proposition. With a health care proxy, one can appoint someone to make pertinent health care decisions on his or her behalf in case of incapacity.
One classic medical directive, sometimes called a living will, tells the medical practitioners what to do in the case of brain death or near-death situations. If the individual does not want to be aimlessly maintained on life support systems, this classic medical directive is selected. The HIPAA release is used to obtain the individual's medical records when needed; signed in advance by the maker, they will help to obtain the records easily.
The will is a basic estate planning tool in Texas and other jurisdictions that designates the beneficiaries who are to receive the assets of the maker. The will becomes effective only upon death of the maker. This document is helpful in many instances, such as where there is a need to establish a post-death trust for minors or for special needs dependents. It is necessary to consult with an estate planning attorney, however, to understand what assets will go through the will and enter probate and which of them will be exempt from probate.
Source: elderlawanswers.com, "Make Reviewing Your Estate Plan One of Your New Year's Resolutions", Jan. 3, 2017