You've made your will and named a friend as executor, or you've executed a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters and appointed an agent to handle your affairs while you are still living but disabled. But does your agent or executor know everything he or she needs to know to manage your affairs, or administer your estate, successfully?
Here are a few of the things your agent or executor will need to know:
This is not a complete list. Call me to prepare your estate planning documents to make sure your agent and executor have all the information they need to carry out your wishes.
- Your personal information - name, address, phone, drivers license number, social security number, date of birth
- Information about your current spouse, any former spouses, and children
- Military service record
- Primary care physician
- Any insurance policies - health, life, accident, disability, home, auto. Policy numbers, name of company, beneficiary designations, agent to contact
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Electronic information -- passwords to computer and smartphone; email addresses and passwords; any social media accounts - name and password; password to your home wireless network
- Alarm codes to your property
- Persons to notify of your death, with contact information
- Professional advisors -- lawyer, financial planner, accountant
- Vehicle VIN numbers
- Sources and destinations of automatic deposits/withdrawals from bank account
- Credit and debit card numbers
Many people -- maybe most people -- think an "estate plan" is only for the wealthy. Not so!
A simple estate plan consists of a Will (or a Trust, if you have a reason for one), a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, a Health-Care Power of Attorney, and a Directive to Physicians ("Living Will").
If you have any property that you want to leave to your family, you need a Will. A Will greatly simplifies the process of making sure your family gets your property after your death. Many banks will not release the bank account to your survivors with only a death certificate -- they want to see "Letters Testamentary" that prove you are the proper person to have the account. And that means probating a Will.
If you are alive and well, you need powers of attorney and an Advance Directive to make sure that (a) your family can manage your property (such as writing checks to pay your bills) if you are unable to do so; and (b) your family and health-care providers know how to care for you if you become unable to express your wishes.
Healthy people don't like to think about these things. But don't wait until you become disabled, leaving your family to guess what you want, or, worse, leaving the State of Texas with the power to make decisions about your health care. I got a call today from someone who wants to create an estate plan for himself because his parents, who did not have an estate plan, are now unable to care for themselves and there is no one in the family with the authority to make decisions. This person does not want to put his family through what he is now going through with his parents.
Don't leave your family guessing! Talk these things over with your family, and then give me a call. 940-765-4992
Many people want a "living will" (formally known as an Advance Directive or Directive to Physicians and Family Members) to make sure that their wishes for health care are followed in case they become unable to communicate their wishes. In most cases, people with living wills are trying to avoid unnecessary, painful, and expensive procedures that do nothing to enhance quality of life and only delay an inevitable death.
In a living will, you can say whether you want "life-prolonging procedures," such as CPR, CT scans, dialysis, or other invasive processes after a doctor has certified that your condition is terminal, or that you are near death. Separately, you can say whether you want food and water administered to you even if you don't want any medical procedures performed.
In addition to stating your wishes in these matters, you should also name someone who will be authorized to make decisions not anticipated in your living will if you are unable to do so. Your health-care agent should be prepared to make the decision, for example, to withdraw food and water, if it comes to that. You should also identify your primary care physician.
Other Decisions That Should Be Included in a Living Will
In addition to the health-care decisions described above, you should also include answers to the following:
- Do you want to donate your body, organs, or tissue?
- Have you made burial or cremation arrangements? If so, what are they? If not, do you want your agent to make these decisions?
- Do you want an autopsy or not, or do you want your agent to make this decision for you?
Let me help draft your living will! 940-765-4992
Many people think that (a) they don't have enough money or property to need a Will; or (b) their property will automatically go to their spouse or children without the need for a Will. Not necessarily! No estate is too small. And the process is complex.
The Texas Probate Code is very specific on how estates are distributed if there is no Will. Below is just a start:
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- If there is no surviving spouse, then to the children and their descendants.
- If there is no surviving spouse or children or grandchildren, then to the parents.
- If there are no parents, spouse, or descendants, then to cousins.
- If one parent survives, then one-half of the decedent's estate goes to that parent and the other half to the brothers and sisters.
- If the spouse and one parent survive, then the spouse inherits all the personal property, but only one-half of the real property of the decedent; the parent gets the other half of the real property.
- If there is a surviving spouse and children, the surviving spouse gets one-third of the decedent's personal property and his/her children get the other two-thirds; the spouse gets a lifetime interest in one-third of the decedent's real property, and on the death of that spouse, the decedent's children inherit the real property of the decedent.