by Donna J. Yarborough –
It is always wise to be proactive in handling or preparing for the future. You never know what life has in store, but if you take these simple steps, you will not only protect yourself and your family, your preparedness will keep you protected from the meddlesome world of the Probate Court.
STEP 1 – Think of the people or persons you trust most who will follow your wishes.
STEP 2 – Contact an attorney for assistance creating your life plan.
STEP 3 – Have an attorney to draft Estate Planning documents for you, including the following documents to be used while you are living:
(Despite its cost-saving allure, resist using estate planning templates found on the internet. These forms are not state-specific and can cause more harm than good and end up being more expensive to try to sort out their ambiguities.)
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. This document allows you to choose a person to make financial decisions on your behalf in case you are away, sick or incapacitated. By naming someone as your agent, you are allowing that person to “step into your shoes.” Your “agent” can take an action you could have taken.
- Medical Power of Attorney. This document allows you to choose a person to make medical decisions on your behalf. You need to let your agent know your desires in case of a medical emergency or your incapacity. Also be sure and give each of your doctors a copy (dentist, primary care physician, any specialist, hospital, etc.) as well as the person named and/or alternate named. Also, it is better to name someone who lives closer to you rather than someone who might live out of state and can’t easily reach you.
- Do Not Resuscitate “DNR”. This document should be executed because a Medical Power of Attorney cannot make a decision regarding whether you are kept on life support or whether you are allowed to die comfortably without life sustaining measures.
- Declaration of Guardian. This document allows you, in the event of your incapacity, to choose who you would want to be your guardian. A named guardian takes priority over all other persons. An example is if you were injured or had dementia and couldn’t make decisions (medical or financial) and you required a guardian, you might want one child or sibling to serve over another. Regardless, if there were several people willing to serve as your guardian or one person had priority over another, the person you choose would be named as guardian. The best part of about this document is that you can also prevent a person you do not want from serving as guardian by listing them as “disqualified” and no matter what, that person absolutely cannot serve. (More detail on Declaration of Guardian in Part 3 of this series.)
STEP 4 – Discuss your wishes with your family and/or named agent. Tell them where you have financial accounts, assets, real property, stocks or mineral interests, etc.
By taking steps in advance, you can prevent the Probate Court and court appointed strangers from making decisions about your health, finances or who will be your guardian in the event you become incapacitated. You have the power to protect yourself.
I handle guardianships, estate and trust litigation when people haven’t put plans in place. If you are in a situation that you need assistance, please contact me.
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About Donna J. Yarborough
Donna J. Yarborough has been helping Texas families through complex and trying legal issues for almost two decades all over the State of Texas. Ms. Yarborough is a probate litigation attorney handling mainly contested matters including will contests, trust litigation, guardianship and fiduciary litigation, as well as estate administration. She has extensive experience in guardianship litigation, which involves dealing with incapacitated individuals to protect their health and financial estates, representing applicants as well as defending proposed wards.Learn more about Donna…