When I tell people that I am an estate planning attorney, they often ask, “Do you do Wills?” My answer is always an enthusiastic, “Yes.” And I follow up with, “A Will is a basic part of an estate plan.” I think people ask that question because they believe that estate planning if only for wealthy people. After all, most of us do not have estates, do we?
When we estate planning attorneys use the word estate, we simply mean stuff. Not just wealthy people have stuff. We all do. Not just wealthy people want to determine who gets their stuff when they die. We all do. Therefore, we all need some level of estate planning.
The term estate planning goes further to encompass not only what happens to our stuff but also what happens to us should we be unable to make decisions about ourselves and our stuff. Dying is not something that only happens to old people and neither is becoming incapacitated. So far in my career the age range for my cases has been 18 to 102. Though there are a lot of fancy ways to go about estate planning, if you are one of those people who thinks it’s not for you, keep reading. I urge you to have the following documents drafted to protect yourself, your family, and your stuff.
3 Must Have Documents for a Basic Estate Plan
With a Will:
- You decide who gets your stuff when you die. Without a Will, the Texas Legislature decides who gets it. I don’t know about you, but if I worked for it, no one should say who gets it but me.
- You can appoint a guardian for minor children or adult incapacitated children. There’s a better way to do it, but, hey, we are talking about the bare minimum here.
- You help to ensure that more of your money and property goes to your designated beneficiaries, instead of going to the courts and attorneys. Not planning is a sure-fire way to pad the pockets of the attorneys who help your family clean up and settle your affairs, and your estate will likely be responsible for paying every penny of the fees.
- You keep down confusion and family fights. You may think, “I’ll be walking around Heaven. Let ‘em fight!” But wouldn’t it be much better for the people you raised to act like the people you raised?
Durable Power of Attorney
With a Durable Power of Attorney:
- You appoint a person (called an agent) to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. You should pick a person you trust to always act in your best interest. You should name an alternate agent, if possible, to step in if your first choice is unable or unwilling to act.
- You avoid the need for a guardian of your estate. If you become incapacitated and don’t have an agent, it may be necessary for a court to appoint one (a guardian of the estate) for you. That means having a court in your business and attorneys in your pocket. It’s not cheap, plus the court may not appoint the person you would have appointed.
Medical Power of Attorney
With a Medical Power of Attorney:
- You appoint a person (called an agent) to make your medical decisions if you become unable to do so. You should pick a person who will honor your wishes. You should name an alternate agent, if possible, to step in if your first choice is unable or unwilling to act.
- You avoid the need for a guardian of your person. If you become incapacitated and don’t have an agent, it may be necessary for a court to appoint one (a guardian of the person) for you. Here we go again with the court in your business and attorneys in your pocket.
You may not be rich, but you have some stuff. You may not be old, but you are human. We are all going to die (current death rate is one out of every one), and we are all subject to becoming incapacitated (think freak accident, illness, etc.). Therefore, you need, at minimum, a basic estate plan. To choose or not to choose? That is not the question. By choosing not to make your person plan, you have chosen the plan the government has for you.
Get Estate Planning Help in Dallas-Fort Worth
The Law Office of Tawana H. Gray will help you create an estate plan that is fully tailored to your individual needs, even if it’s just the basics. Our services are cost-effective, efficient, and designed to provide peace of mind to you and your loved ones. To speak to our Texas estate planning attorney, please call 817-270-9975 or simply contact us online at your convenience.