ESTATE PLANNING Estate planning is the process by which people prepare for their death or incapacity, specifically about the transfer of assets after death and issues surrounding those transfers. A person’s primary estate plan centers around a last will and testament, though a complete plan includes several other documents as well. Everyone should have some form of estate plan. Even if your estate is relatively small, proper planning can save time and headache for your survivors, and ensure the right assets go to the right people. If you have young children and want to ensure their protection, have specific items that you want to go to specific people, or you have a complex estate, a will is vital to make your wishes known to your survivors. A comprehensive estate plan will allow your loved ones to go through a straightforward and clear process to transfer your assets to them, as well as add protection for your assets during your life for unforeseen events. Documents required for a comprehensive estate plan include:
A written Last Will & Testament
A will is the primary estate planning document. Wills allow you to determine which assets go to which people, and can generally be as flexible as the person wishes. A will can distribute basically any kind of property, from land and houses to bank accounts and heirlooms of great personal value.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Authorizations
An Authorization for Release of Medical Information under HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountabilit Act) allows you to specify who has access to your private medical information. With a HIPAA Authorization, your health care provider or insurance company should have no reservations about sharing your medical information or status with the people you select.
A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself later in life. If you become incapacitated, the person you name will be legally authorized to take care of financial matters for you, subject to the limits you place on the appointment.
A Medical Power of Attorney
A Healthcare Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you become too ill or incompetent to make decisions for yourself. These can be set to expire at certain dates, or can be indefinite, and only take effect when a physician certifies your lack of competency.
A Directive to Physicians or Surrogates (also known as a Living Will) for end-of-life medical treatment, as well as medical directives for other treatments as necessary
These are commonly known as "living wills." Advance medical directives let you state your wishes about medical care in the event that you develop a terminal or irreversible condition and can no longer make your own medical decisions. The Directive becomes effective automatically when your attending physician certifies that you have a terminal or irreversible condition.
If there are minor children in your family, a declaration of appointment for a guardian
This declaration allows you to choose, in advance, who you want to have guardianship over your children. The last surviving parent of a minor or disabled child may designate a guardian in the event of the parent’s death or disability. A guardianship designation may also expressly disqualify the appointment of any person the parent does not find fit to be guardian.
A Declaration of Guardianship in the Event of Later Incapacity or for more immediate needs
This allows you to select who will have guardianship over you and your estate if you should lose the ability to manage your own affairs. Similar to an appointment of guardian for minor children, this document can specifically exclude people who you do not trust to manage you and your assets appropriately.
When you reach out to me, I will meet with you to gather information about your goals and desires. I am flexible in my meeting space; happy to come to you personally, meet at my office, or discuss via email or phone.
A lifelong resident of Texas, Joel Simmons graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and then attended the University of Texas School of Law, graduating in 2013. A top-quarter graduate of the law school, Joel has worked extensively with the Texas Legislature as a policy analyst with the House of Representatives, an analyst for the Sunset Advisory Commission, and an attorney with the Texas Senate. Now, as a dedicated estate planning attorney, Joel focuses his practice on helping navigate the complex process of protecting his clients’ assets, providing a personal touch in drafting along with explanation and information to his clients at every stage to ensure client goals are met.