Livens & Reed, PLLC

Avoid estate planning mistakes

Many Texas residents and others around the nation likely have a will that determines how their assets will be distributed after they pass away. While having a will is important, it is even more critical to have documents in place that specifies how one's needs will be met should he or she become incapacitated. Financial experts recommend several key documents to include as part of an individual's comprehensive estate planning process. 

A medical power of attorney, or advance health care directive, designates an agent to make medical decisions should someone become unable to do so. Another important document to have in place is a living will. This document identifies what types of medical treatment should be given when it is unlikely someone will get better. A living will ensures that family members know a person's wishes and can act accordingly with no disagreements. Without this document, such decisions would be made in court and could possibly go against what the person or family members may want.

In the event a person becomes incapacitated, it would be necessary for someone to step in to manage finances and make sure bills are paid. A durable power of attorney could be named to handle any financial decisions and conduct any banking transactions. Many financial planners recommend having a revocable living trust. All assets are transferred to the trust and a trustee manages it. The person creating the trust is usually the trustee, but a successor is named in the event the creator can no longer manage it.

A HIPAA release is also required for someone's medical information to be shared with family members. This release, part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is necessary for anyone to have the ability to see medical records or discuss treatment with the physicians involved. It is also helpful to include directives about organ donation to eliminate any questions about someone's wishes.

Estate planning is much more than just having a will. A Texas estate lawyer can help clients evaluate their situations and develop plans to specifically meet their needs. An experienced attorney will work to protect a client's assets and ensure that his or her wishes are carried out expressly as desired.

Source: Forbes, "The Biggest Estate Planning Mistake People Make", Brad Wiewel, Aug. 16, 2017

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