Every Texan must have these estate planning documents.

Without these documents, you and your family are at risk of losing control of their future if something happens to you, whether it is the result of injury, illness or death.

Advanced planning for your estate is important and is also a thoughtful expression of your care and love for those you will be leaving behind. Your wills and related documents should outline your wishes and desires that you want to happen after you pass. If you do not take charge of your own plan, then the Texas Probate Code will dictate a plan to your family and the law may not be consisted with your true wishes and desires. One question that most have when they begin planning their estate documents is, Do I have to get a lawyer?  The answer is no you do not have to. You can write your own documents, you can use resources online, and you can be your own lawyer. Don’t let lawyer fees scare you away from these very important documents.

1. Last Will and Testament

Your Will is a written document that expresses your intent as to the passing of all your properties that would otherwise pass by the laws of intestacy if you were to die without a Will. Your Will governs passage of title to probate assets. A Will may be changed at any time by executing a new Will or a Codicil. A Codicil is just a supplement to a Will, containing an addition, modification, explanation, etc. of something in the Will. Also, a new Will may be executed without destroying the original or any copies that have been made. However an existing Will may not be amended by marking through words, sentences, etc. or by making handwritten changes to the original. Also, there are probate avoidance techniques (non-probate assets and/or Living Trust) that you may wish to consider implementing to carry out your wishes, in place of or in conjunction with your Will.

2. Power of Attorney

A power of attorney authorizes your appointed agent(s) to make important decisions on your behalf as long as you are alive. You have the option of making the power of attorney effective immediately after you sign it, or delaying its effectiveness until you become mentally incapacitated. There are two different powers of attorney, Statutory Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney gives the authorized person to make financial decisions on your behalf whereas Medical Power of Attorney grants the authorized person to make a broad variety of health care decisions if you are incapacitated.

3. Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates

This document allows you to make decisions in advance concerning your desire for life-sustaining treatment. If you are suffering from a medical illness or condition that you will not survive, this document tells the doctors to provide only those treatments to keep you comfortable.

4. Declaration of Guardian

This document serves as a back up to the two powers of attorney. Although the powers of attorney generally avoid the need for a guardian, if a guardianship is instituted in court for you by any party, your Declaration of Guardian is the legal way for you to designate the person you want to entrust with your affairs. You may list persons whom you would not want to have as your guardian under any circumstances also.

5. Declaration of Guardian for a minor

This declaration is applicable to persons who have one or minor children. This document sets forth your designation of the person(s) whom you would want the Court to appoint as guardian over your minor child(ren).

Every Texan must have these estate planning documents because without these documents, you and your family are at risk of losing control of their future if something happens to you, whether it is the result of injury, illness or death.