Monday, September 6, 2010

Estate Planning Part 2: The Rest of the Story

Everyone needs a will. At different times in peoples' lives, they need other, ancillary estate planning documents. These documents guide financial, medical, and end-of-life decisions. Are you covered? Consider these important documents and their purposes.

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney--This document allows an individual to designate someone to manage his or her financial affairs in case of disability. The powers granted in the document can become effective immediately or can become effective upon disability. Either way, the document will still be effective even after the person becomes disabled. That is why it is called a durable power of attorney. This document is very powerful, and it should not ever be entered into lightly. The designee must be someone who is 100 percent trustworthy. Texas has a statutory format to be used to help improve acceptance of the document by third parties. (Without a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, a Guardianship would likely be required to take over a disabled person's financial affairs. Guardianships require continuing oversight by the Court, are very expensive, and expose a person's private business, making it a public record.)

Medical Power of Attorney--This is a companion document to the Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. The Medical Power of Attorney names the people who will make health care decisions during an individual's disability. This document is particularly valuable where someone other than a spouse will be making those decisions.

Directive to Physicians--This document is sometimes called a Living Will. It allows an individual to decide in advance if he or she wishes to have artificial measures used to sustain life when the person is near death. Many people do not wish to be kept alive by artificial respirators or feeding tubes in the event that they will not be able to sustain life on their own. Without this document, doctors may be required to use all heroic measures available to sustain life. This document can help maintain a person's dignity and preserve assets for beneficiaries.

HIPPA Release--This document allows an individual to decide if he or she wishes that doctors share information with designated individuals. Without a HIPPA release, doctors will not share information--with domestic partners, 'significant others,' friends or even relatives--because a doctor has a confidential doctor-patient relationship with the individual.

Declaration of Guardian in Advance of Need--This document allows an individual to designate today who his or her guardian should be tomorrow, if guardianship ever becomes necessary due to incapacity. It also allows an individual to disqualify people from ever serving as his or her guardian. Period. This document can bring peace of mind and assist the court in making a proper guardianship designation if the need arises.

Declaration of Guardian for Minor Children--This document allows parents to decide in advance who they both would like to have guardianship of their children in the event that both parents become incapacitated or predecease their children. Without this document, the court may decide where and with whom the children live. The court may select relatives that an individual would prefer not raise their children. This document provides peace of mind for parents.

Form to Donate Body to Medical Study--This document allows an individual to donate his or her body to an institution for scientific study. If a donation is to be made to a specific institution, documents from that specific institution may need to be completed, as well.

Appointment of Agent to Dispose of Remains--This document allows an individual to designate someone to sign papers releasing the individual's body after death to the funeral home or institution of scientific study.


About Lisa C Smith

Attorney Lisa C. Smith believes that many legal problems can be resolved by working out agreements, legal documents, and creative solutions for businesses and families. Her goal is to provide quality legal representation with personal service and respect.

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