Five Must-Have Estate Planning Documents in Texas
In Texas, estate planning is more than just a plan to protect assets. It’s also about ensuring that your family and loved ones are taken care of after you pass away.
We’ve rounded up five essential documents every Texan should have before they die to make it easier for your loved ones to navigate life after you’re gone.
Here are the five must-have estate planning documents for adults in Texas.
#1 Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to transfer ownership of your property into a trust, have the ability to manage it, and make changes to it if necessary.
Individuals who want their assets to avoid probate and expedite asset distribution to designated beneficiaries often use these trusts. Without a revocable trust, your assets must be distributed in probate court according to your Last Will and Testament or by Texas intestate laws.
#2 Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is the foundation of your estate plan. It is a legal document that outlines how you want property distributed when you die and can even give instructions on handling your funeral and final wishes. Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to intestate succession, meaning the state will decide who gets what, putting your loved ones at risk of losing out on valuable inheritance.
To create one, sit down with a professional estate planning lawyer who can help guide you through the process—from beneficiary designations and guardians of young children to writing specific instructions about funeral arrangements. While creating a will may seem daunting at first, with the help of an attorney, it can be much easier than you think.
#3 Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows you to designate someone else as your financial agent in your absence. This person can make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated, such as signing legal documents or accessing your bank accounts.
Estate planning isn’t always about dying; if you become ill, badly injured, or incapacitated, you may need help managing your money and assets. A financial POA document allows you to designate someone you trust to make these decisions when you can’t.
#4 Medical Power of Attorney
In addition to a durable power of attorney, you should also have a medical power of attorney. This document allows you to appoint a medical agent to make healthcare decisions when you can’t. In Texas, a medical power of attorney must be signed by the principal (you) in the presence of two witnesses.
Your medical POA will have the right to make vital decisions about your medical treatment or procedures based on their knowledge of your beliefs, values, and wishes regarding end-of-life care.
Say, for instance, you have sustained life-threatening injuries, you’re transported to the hospital, and after hours of surgery, doctors place you on life support. Your health is declining, and your family members have to make the devastating choice of whether to take you off life support.
Often, these decisions can tear a family apart as they argue about what you would have wanted. When you decide beforehand who makes these final decisions and communicate those wishes in writing, you simplify issues like this.
#5 HIPAA Authorization
HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, restricts the ability of individuals to access your medical records. The problem with this is that when you’re unable to speak for yourself or become incapacitated, access to this information is vital.
When you sign a HIPAA authorization, you can name a person who can access your medical information so that your healthcare provider or insurance company has no reservations about sharing this information.
Texas Estate Planning Checklist
Ultimately, the estate planning documents that you’ll need will be unique to your circumstances.
When you’re getting ready to start your estate plan, here are a few steps you should take:
- Select your beneficiaries. These will be the individuals who inherit your estate. You should also designate guardians for minor children if you and your spouse pass away.
- Think of who should be your executor. The person who will fulfill this role is responsible for collecting assets, paying off debts, and distributing funds according to the terms of your will or trust.
- Pick someone you trust to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf.
- Collect important documents (birth certificates, property deeds, digital logins, insurance policies, etc.). Put them in one secure place to be easily accessible when needed.
- Contact an estate planning attorney. A lawyer can help you draft these legal documents and keep them up to date over time.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help you understand which estate planning documents are the most important for your situation. Remember that it’s not about having every single document; choosing the right ones for you and your family matters.
If you’re unsure where to start or want help with your estate plan, consult our estate planning lawyers at the Titus Law Firm. We serve clients in Houston, TX, and surrounding areas. Call now for a free consultation.