In this uncertain world, one never knows when or if a personal situation or hardship might occur, rendering one incapable of taking care of their personal health or affairs. When that situation strikes, it is vitally important that comprehensive legal documents are in place that make known the desires and wishes of the incapacitated party. For example, if a person dies without a will, the State of Texas applies a formula to the family history to decide who inherits the assets of the deceased. This cold, impersonal method of resolution does not take into account any stated desires of the decedent; rather, the formula many times requires property to end up in the hands of a party of whom the decedent had no intent to benefit. For more details on this issue, you are encouraged to read the article in the TLD Library pertaining to wills and probate, along with the accompanying video.
In non-death situations, it is still extremely important that one designates a trusted person to make health-care decisions for them and carry out financial affairs in the best interest of the incapacitated person. Failure to have the correct documents in place could lead to extreme health and financial hardships due to unclear authority and fear of liability.
Even in situations where death or incapacity is not an issue, many times an individual needs to appoint another party to act on their behalf in a matter, such as the closing on a house purchase when one of the buyers is unable to attend. A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is extremely helpful in facilitating the completion of normal everyday financial matters.
A prudent consumer should at the very least invest in five basic estate-planning documents: 1) a Last Will and Testament, which sets forth a person’s clear desires as to the distribution of their assets upon death; 2) a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney which appoints another person to take care of financial issues in your absence or upon your disability; 3) a Medical Power of Attorney which appoints another person to make health-care decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated; 4) a HIPAA Authorization (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which authorizes another person to have access to your medical records, and 5) a Directive to Physicians, sometimes known as a “living will”, which instructs doctors and medical personel not to use artificial means of prolonging your life if death is otherwise imminent and irreversible.
- Estate Planning Package (Last Will & Testament and Health-Care Documents): $550
- Affidavit of Heirship: $275
- Signing/Witnessing/Notary Services: $200 extra