Estate Planning

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves a totality approach for dealing with any incapacity issues during your lifetime, and disposing of your Estate at your death.  By looking at your entire Estate, including your current and future assets and liabilities, during your lifetime, and defining what goals you have with regards to those assets, a proper incapacity and post mortem plan can be implemented.

What Documents are Needed for Incapacity Planning?

Depending upon your age, you are more likely to become incapacitated in the next 20 years, than you are to die.  While that may be a scary thought, with proper documentation, you can be prepared for incapacity by deciding who you would want to make decisions for you, and what decisions you want to be made on your behalf if you do become incapacitated.  The following are helpful incapacity documents to have prepared:

  1. Financial Power of Attorney—Appoints a financial decision maker if you become incapacitated and cannot make your financial decisions.
  2. Medical Power of Attorney—Appoints a medical decision maker if you become incapacitated and cannot make your financial decisions
  3. HIPAA Release—Allows your agents appointed under your powers of attorney documents to access to your medical records if they either need to implement your power of attorney document or your agent would like to visit and find out about your medical condition in the hospital.
  4. Declaration of Guardian—This document is a back-up safety net to your power of attorney documents because there are some actions under Texas law that can only be performed by a Guardian, not merely as an agent under a power of attorney.  This document declares who you would want to serve as your Guardian, should the need arise.
  5. Declaration of Guardian for Minor Children—This document appoints who you would want to physically take your children if the need arises due to incapacity or death, as well as appointing who you would want to handle the financial decisions with regards to your children if the need arises due to incapacity or death.
  6. Directives to Physicians—This is what Texas calls your living will.  This document is your statement to the world on what you want to happen if you are on life support.  If validly executed, this document sets out your decision on what you want to happen regarding life support decisions, and takes away the burden from your medical agent to decide.
  7. Appointment for Disposition of Remains—This document can set out your burial or cremation wishes as well as appointing an agent to carry out those wishes.  This document is useful with funeral homes.

What Documents are Needed for Post Mortem Planning?

The two documents that dispose of your property at death are a Last Will and Testament and a Trust.  Please visit the Wills Page and Trust Page for more information.  Remember certain assets, such as life insurance and retirement plans may pass outside of your Will or Trust at your death, so it is important to consider these assets in planning and coordinating any beneficiary designations with the rest of your estate plan.

What are some Advanced Estate Planning Techniques?

Depending upon the value of your estate, the types of assets in your estate or your goals, more advanced planning may be advisable.  Some more advanced planning tools to consider are:

  1. Estate tax planning
  2. Business formation and succession planning
  3. Asset protection planning
  4. Special needs planning
  5. Planning on behalf of minor children and dynasty planning
  6. Elder Law Planning including Medicaid planning
  7. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
  8. Charitable giving
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