Lesson 1: What is a financial power of attorney?
What? A durable power of attorney (“POA”), also called a financial power of attorney, appoints an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. The durable POA goes into effect at the time of your choice – either immediately or upon your disability or incapacity.
Why? It is important to have a durable POA so that, in case of an emergency or your sudden incapacity, your finances can be handled and your bills can be paid.
Who? Appoint a friend or loved one whom you trust, who is responsible with money and will be able to act with a level head during an emergency.
When? A durable power of attorney must be executed while you are a) over the age of 28 and b) of sound mind, meaning you have the capacity to make important decisions.
Where? A durable power of attorney must be signed in front of a notary.
Lesson 2: What is a medical power of attorney?
What? A medical power of attorney (“POA”) is a document appointing an agent to make medical decisions for you in the case of incapacity.
Why? If a doctor can get the answer out of you, they will. But in the case you are unable to make a medical decision for yourself, an agent needs to be able to step in and get you the care you need.
Who? Appoint a friend or loved one whom you trust, who is familiar with your health and will keep calm during a crisis.
When? A medical power of attorney must be executed while you are a) over the age of 18 and b) of sound mind, meaning you have the capacity to make important decisions.
Where? A medical POA must be signed in front of a notary or two witnesses.
Lesson #3: Transfer on Death Deeds
What? A transfer on death deed (TODD) is a document that transfers real property after the death of an owner. It is akin to adding a beneficiary designation on a financial account. When the owner passes away, title to the real property transfers to the beneficiary as designated on the deed.
Why? Transfer on death deeds eliminate the need to put an estate through probate to change title on real property after the death of an owner.
Who? TODDs can be useful for any owner of real property. We recommend TODDs often for married couples, as it provides a way for a surviving spouse to transfer title to real property without going to court.
When? Transfer on death deeds are best executed with your other estate planning documents, or after marriage.
Where? A transfer on death deed must be signed in front of a notary and then recorded in the real property records of the county in which the property is located before the death of the owner.
Lesson #4: Declaration of Guardian
What? A declaration of guardian is an estate planning form that allows you to designate the persons you would like to serve as your guardian if the need ever arises. A guardian is a person appointed by the court to manage the finances and/or personal needs of an incapacitated person.
Why? The probate laws of Texas mandate that a judge, when appointing a guardian, consider the wishes of the incapacitated person. The declaration of guardian is a way of making your wishes known ahead of time, and also allows you to designate people you do not want to serve as your guardian.
Who? You should designate individuals whom you trust to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. A guardian appointed by the court has wide power to make decisions for you, and serious responsibilities to care for your wellbeing.
When? The declaration of guardian form is a document you execute before the need for a guardian arises. You must be over the age of 18 and have full capacity in order to sign.
Where? The declaration of guardian must be signed in front of a notary and two witnesses who are over the age of 14.
Lesson #5: HIPAA Release
What? A HIPAA Release is an authorization to release your medical information to another person.
Why? A HIPAA Release allows healthcare providers
Who? You should designate someone whom you trust. It is best practice to authorize the release of your medical information to the same agent whom you designated in your Medical Power of Attorney. You may designate individual agents or co-agents to act jointly.
When? A HIPAA Release must be executed when you are over the age of 18 and of sound mind.
Where? A HIPAA Release should be signed in front of a notary.
Lesson #6: Estate Planning Overview
What? Estate planning is the process by which you designate agents to make decisions on your behalf in the case you are unable to, and specify how your estate will be distributed after your death.
Why? Estate planning ensures that people you know and trust will be acting on your behalf in the case of your incapacity, and paves the way for your loved ones to handle your assets after your death.
Who? Estate planning is necessary for everyone over the age of 18. Even if you do not have a large estate and your children get along, estate planning is a necessity.
When? Estate planning documents must be executed when you are above the age of 28 and of sound mind, meaning you have the capacity to make decisions.
Where? Most estate planning documents must be notarized and signed in front of witnesses. The originals of your estate planning documents should be kept in a fireproof safe in your home.
Lesson #7: Directive to Physicians
What? A directive to physicians allows you to state whether or not you want life-sustaining treatment to be utilized to keep you alive in the case of a terminal or irreversible medical condition.
Why? A directive to physicians allows you to state directly to the doctors whether you want to remain on life support, rather than leaving what can be a traumatic and heart-wrenching decision to your family.
Who? A directive to physicians does not designate an agent. Rather, it issues instructions directly to the doctors.
When? A directive to physicians must be executed when you are over the age of 18 and of sound mind. The directive takes effect when you have a terminal or irreversible medical condition and reliant on life support.
Where? A directive to physicians should be executed at your attorney’s office after you discuss the options with your counsel. The directive must be signed in front of a notary or two witnesses.
Lesson #8: Appointment of Guardian for Children
What? An appointment of guardian is a document that allows you designate the person or persons you want to care for your children in the case you (and your spouse) pass away.
Why? In the case that you and the children’s other parent have passed away or become incapacitated, a guardian will need to be appointed to care for your children. This means someone who will care for their physical, financial, and medical needs.
Who? This is the most important agent designation you will make. Pick people whom you trust absolutely, who are personally and fiscally responsible with no criminal record.
When? The appointment of guardian is usually executed with your other estate planning documents, but should be made as soon as possible after your children are born.
Where? An appointment of guardian can be included in your will or in a separate document.
Lesson #9: Appointment for Disposition of Remains
What? An Appointment for Disposition of Remains designate an agent or agents to take possession of your remains after you pass away.
Why? An Appointment for Disposition of Remains allows you to designate how you want your remains to be handled, e.g. cremated or buried, after your death. It ensures your wishes are made known and eases the process for your loved ones after you pass.
Who? Designate an agent whom you trust and who will be willing to pick up your remains and have them disposed of according to your wishes.
When? An Appointment for Disposition of Remains is usually executed along with your other estate planning documents.
Where? This document should be signed in front of a notary and witnesses. Keep your Appointment with your other estate planning documents.
Lesson #10: Donating your body to medical science
What? A Form to Donate Body for Medical Study allows you to designate that your remains be donated for scientific purposes after you pass.
Why? This form can be utilized in the case you do not want your remains to be disposed of but donated for medical study. It is not necessary for everyone.
Who? This form is for people who wish to have their bodies donated rather than disposed of after death. It designates a specific institution to which their body will be donated.
When? The Form to Donate Body is usually executed along with your other estate planning documents.
Where? Keep your Form to Donate Body with your other estate planning documents in a fireproof safe in your home.