Estate Planning 101 (Monday, September 23, 2013)

 

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The End is Coming!

Statistically speaking 100% of people born will die.  Its a simple statement, but we seem to forget that as often as possible.

 

No one wants to talk about incapacity, death, or what we want for our family after we are gone.  However, not talking about these things can be far worse than the “uncomfortable-ness” we feel when having those conversations.

 

You can’t prepare your loved ones for the emotional rollercoaster that will follow your death; no one can.  You can, however, attempt to lessen the burden and pain by planning ahead; by making decisions for yourself and your estate.

 

What documents do you need?

There are several documents every individual should have in their arsenal for “that day” - 

 

1. Will – Used to dispose of your property in a manner you decide, instead of allowing the government to make those decisions;

2. Medical Power of Attorney – Used to designate an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf when you become incapacitated;

3. Directive to Physicians and Family – Used to authorize which life-prolonging treatments are used if your medical condition becomes terminable;

4. Out-of-Hospital DNR – Used to let medical personnel and health care professionals know you have chosen not to undergo resuscitation measures;

5. Durable Power of Attorney – Used to designate an individual to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf;

6. Declaration for Mental Health Treatment — Used to authorize (or exclude) the varying degrees of care in the event of debilitating psychosis;

7. Disposition of Remains — Used to direct your family on your desires for funeral services and cremation decisions; and

8. A Living Trust – Used to help manage your assets during life and to distribute those assets at your death.

 

Over the next few months we will feature a separate blog on each of those documents.

 

But why is estate planning so important?

When someone dies with no estate plan, the government, or sometimes a judge, must determine how to divide that person’s property.  Under Texas law, this means invoking the Texas Intestacy Scheme. For anyone without legal training this can be extremely confusing, and if I’m being honest, it’s confusing for those of us with legal training.

 

Distribution of assets would depend on whether a person left behind a surviving spouse, surviving children, parents, siblings, whether or not the surviving spouse was the other parent of the surviving children…  See? Confusing. Plus, if someone dies leaving no family behind their property becomes the property of the state in which they died. Yes. You read that correctly, the government can get your stuff if you haven’t made your wishes known.

 

As you can see, there are so many unpredictable scenarios when it comes to death and property and you risk everything by not planning ahead. Drafting the documents listed above allows you to make decisions and control who, what, when, where, and why your property gets distributed.

 

When is the best time to plan?

Now. Whatever season of life you are in now is the right time. It’s only too late when you aren’t here to do it anymore. Contact your Estate Planning attorney and ask them what you need to get started and then sit down with your family and make what could be the most important decisions of your life.

 

Remember, however, one time may not be enough. Anytime a significant life event occurs you need to reevaluate your Estate Plan to make sure it’s still in line with what you want.

 

Don’t forget to watch for the rest of the Blogs in this series and start thinking about your Estate Plan today!

 

--Authored by Kayla R. Wimberley, Esq.,

 

Matthew Harris Law, PLLC  - Estate Management Division

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

FrontDesk@MatthewHarrisLaw.com 

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