What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that allows a person to gift their estate after death. Nearly everyone has an estate. An estate consists of everything you own at the time of your death, such as your car, home, checking and savings accounts, stocks, securities, life insurance proceeds, and real estate holdings. Your Will allows your family to know your desires and it helps to streamline the probate process.
Do You Need A Will?
There are a lot of factors to consider to determine if you actually need a Will. The following list will help you weigh the pros and cons.
If you have a Will . . .
- You can designate who will act as executor of your estate in probate.
- You can specify that your executor serves without the necessity of a bond.
- You can provide for the independent administration of your estate. That means your executor does not have to get Court approval for what is done during the administration of your estate.
- You can make specific bequests of items of your property to certain individuals.
- You can name the guardians of your minor children in case of the death of you and your spouse.
- And you use a trust, you can delay receipt of part or all of your property until the heir reaches a certain age.
- You can leave property to a charity.
- You can leave property to people who are not your immediate relatives.
- You control who gets what.
- Your estate can avoid a costly proceeding to determine heirship. That is a probate proceeding where, besides paying the probate lawyer, the estate has to pay a lawyer for the “unknown heirs.”
- You can make the Will “self-proving.” With a self-proven will, it is not necessary to produce a witness in court to prove the will was executed with the requisite formalities. This may be important if the witnesses to the will are deceased or cannot be found at the time of probate.
- You can provide for the transfer of titled property, such as real estate, so the chain of title is not clouded.
What Other Documents are Necessary?
There are several other documents that our Firm always prepares with a Will. They include:
- Statutory Power of Attorney — This document gives someone else (your agent) the authority to act for you when you are alive but incapacitated. This powerful document will avoid the burdensome court-supervised guardianship proceedings that will be necessary if you become incapacitated. When choosing an agent, you must consider your options carefully. The agent can be a spouse, adult child, or trusted friend if that person always acts in good faith on your behalf. The actions of your agent are legally considered your own actions, so you should choose a trustworthy individual. You also want to choose an agent who is trusted by others in your family and who will communicate well with them.
- Medical Power of Attorney — This document gives your agent the ability to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them at that specific time. This document covers medical decisions such as consent to give or withhold medical procedures, hiring or firing of medical personnel, gaining access to medical records, and visitations of you in health care facilities.
- Directive to Physicians (“Living Will”) — This document is like a letter from you to your future medical providers. It states your preferences regarding certain types of procedures or medical care like life-support machines. It is used when you can no longer communicate and it directs your desires as to withholding or the withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures if you have a terminal and irreversible condition. It often helps families by preventing arguments regarding the type of medical care that you will receive.
- HIPAA Release — This document allows your healthcare providers to release your private health information (that is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Privacy Standards (HIPAA) and the Texas Medical Privacy Act) to the individual(s) that you designate.
- Declaration of Appointment of Guardian for Child — In the event of your incapacity or death, this document designates a person who will be the guardian of your child and/or your child’s estate.
What do your Children Need?
When your child turns 18 years of age, they are deemed to be an adult under Texas law. As such, they will likely need some sort of estate plan. This is particularly true as to medical decisions. Specifically, they may need to authorize their parents to obtain their healthcare information (HIPAA Release) and to make medical decisions (Directive to Physicians (which is also known as a “Living Will“)). This necessity is often overlooked. This causes increased stress because the parents cannot help their child in their time of need. We can assist you in addressing these concerns.
Please give us a call at 817-424-3405 so that we can schedule your free consultation. There is never any obligation when meeting with our attorneys.