Wills & Probate Attorney Houston
There are certain documents which every person should have executed for their own protection during life and for the administration of their estate and person after death. I call this the Will Package and it consists of the following documents:
• A Last Will and Testament (with or without pourover trust)
• Revocation of (previous) Powers of Attorney
• Durable General Power of Attorney or Short Form Power of Attorney
• Certification of Durable (or Short Form) Power of Attorney
• Medical Power of Attorney
• Directive to Physician
• HIPAA Release
• Declaration for Mental Health Treatment
• Gift by a Living Donor
• Appointment for Disposition of Remains (including funeral arrangements)
• Checklist for Handling of Disposition of Body After Death
The Living Part of the Will Package
During life, certain of these documents are absolutely essential for your personal and financial protection when you are incapacitated by illness or injury. If you are incapacitated by illness or injury, your business life goes on whether you are able to manage it or not. Bills must be paid, property cared for, medical decisions must be made, and health care providers must be instructed what to do and what not to do.
Naming one or more persons you know to be totally trustworthy and who know your most intimate desires concerning the management of your person and your estate will assure that your estate does not collapse due to lack of management and that you are not subjected to undesired medical intervention.
Revocation of (previous) Powers of Attorney
If you have ever executed a Power of Attorney for any reason during your life prior to the preparation or update of your Will Package, it is best to execute a formal revocation of all prior Powers of Attorney so that there can be no legal contest in the event of your incapacity.
Durable General Power of Attorney or Short Form Power of Attorney
Whether drafted in full form or in the less intricate short form, this document appoints one or more agents and alternates who will literally stand in your shoes during your incapacity. The powers given to your agent(s) allow them to receive and manage money owed to you, pay your bills, buy and sell the property, make investments on your behalf and do all of the things you would do if you were not incapacitated.
Certification of Durable (or Short Form) Power of Attorney
This document is an acknowledgment and acceptance of the agent appointed in the General or Short Form Power of Attorney that he or she has been appointed and is willing to take on the legal responsibilities listed in the Power of Attorney.
Medical Power of Attorney
This document gives an agent the right to instruct your health care providers what to do or not do in caring for you in the event you are unable to communicate with them.
Directive to Physician
This document is your personal instruction to your health care providers about specific treatments and procedures you absolutely do or do not want to be performed on or for you in the event the degree of your illness or injury indicates you will not recover.
The document allows your health care providers to divulge information concerning your test results, diagnoses and other private and/or legally protected medical and psychiatric information to other people, including your family and your designated agent(s).
Declaration for Mental Health Treatment
Some illnesses are purely mental and do not lead necessarily to death, but leave you unable to manage your life or make rational decisions about your own treatment. This document authorizes mental health care providers to follow the instructions of your agent(s) but also contains your specific instructions about whether or not you want certain treatments or procedures performed on you.
Your Body & Estate After Death
Rich or poor, we all die and rich or poor, we leave things behind which we want certain other people to have. These are the documents which assure you that your wishes will be carried out after your death. These documents also make your wishes known about the disposition of your body itself.
A Last Will & Testament (with or without pourover trust)
This well-known document determines who will receive what property from your estate. You Last Will and Testament identifies your children and spouse if any. It does not necessarily identify your other heirs specifically, though it can. Your Will can identify with specificity certain items you wish to leave to certain specific people and it can portion out on a percentage basis your gross estate among specific people without any specific items being mentioned.
A Will can also be used to set up a trust for yourself (a living trust) or for others (perhaps your grandchildren) for a specific purposes or generally for your or their health, education, and welfare.
In Texas, unlike many other states, your estate does not escheat (the reversion of property to the state on the owner’s dying without legal heirs) to the state if you die without a will. Texas has written a will of sorts for you which distributes your estate in a very strict order to your spouse, children, mother/father, sister/brother and other family by blood or marriage. The administration (the actual determination of this list of people and the court orders necessary to put that distribution into effect) is slow and costly, and the money comes out of your estate. So, even though the State of Texas has attempted to make certain that your estate goes to your heirs at law, you can avoid almost all of the legal costs of such an administration by executing a Last Will and Testament, no matter how small your estate may be.
Gift by a Living Donor
In this age of rapidly expanding medical knowledge, many people wish to leave their entire body or parts of it for the benefit of science or individuals in need of replacement organs or tissues. This document authorizes the proper people and institutions to put those wishes into effect for:
• Medical or Dental Education
• Advancement of Medical or Dental Science
Appointment for Disposition of Remains (including funeral arrangements)
Even if you “donate your body to medical science” it is entirely possible that when the institution has used that body to the extent it can, it will return the final remains to your family for disposition. In this document, you will appoint an agent who will handle your final wishes concerning your body and the acknowledgment of your friends, family, and religious beliefs.
Checklist for Handling of Disposition of Body After Death
None of us like to think about our deaths but many have very strong feelings about how they want their bodies handled and what kind of public expression of grief or celebration, if any, they want to be held after their death. This checklist is not especially elegant. It has been cobbled together over the years to help my clients think through these issues and construct a plan for their agent and their families concerning this matter. I offer it to you here so that you may begin that process now. Your family and friends will appreciate your efforts.
PROBATING THE ESTATE
Whether I prepared the Will or not, I am available to assist your family in the process of probating your will where an Independent Executor or Executrix has been appointed.