Before you freak out at the thought of someone adding one more thing to your to-do list during this pandemic, hear me out. Want to check off something you’ve had on the back burner for a while? Want to do something that will provide a little peace of mind in these uncertain times? In less than the time it takes to place your weekly Target Drive Up order, you can take care of your “estate”.
“Estate planning” seems daunting and something only today’s boomers need to deal with, but I am here to tell you that anyone over the age of 18 with possessions, and particularly children, should take care of their estate. Without it, you leave your family in the wild, wild west of Texas courts and could financially strain your family to a breaking point.
Estate planning could include multiple legal documents, creating business entities, and a life insurance plan to cover all potential situations. I am here to tell you, though, that if you can take care of these five documents, you will have your family on the path to a brighter future:
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is a legal document that designates another person, referred to as an “agent” to make any and all health care decisions for you if you are unable to make your own health care decisions.
The agent’s authority in this document begins when a doctor certifies that you, the person who executed the document, lacks the competence to make your own health care decisions.
Realistic Hypothetical: I am giving birth to my second child, and I begin hemorrhaging and am unconscious for multiple hours. Doctors have two options to proceed but cannot communicate with me to ascertain my wishes. My husband, if named my agent, could use this document to make a medical decision for me. Without a document, the arrangements could be delayed or made by medical professionals without any thought to our family’s wishes.
You know when you go into a doctor’s office, and they hand you a stack of a thousand papers to fill out. One of those is likely a HIPAA acknowledgment form. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal law that helps keep your medical records private. This puppy has one big bark. If you are over the age of 18 and have not explicitly given permission for someone to access your medical records, it’s doubtful that they will be able to do so without your consent.
Executing a proper HIPAA Release can help make sure that someone you trust can have one universal resource to gain access to any and all health information, should anything happen to you.
Realistic Hypothetical: Every doctor I go to, I sign a release authorizing my husband to access my medical records. My husband works in the oil field and is gone for two weeks. My mother is in town, helping me take care of the kids. Something happens to me, and I am in the hospital and need to get a list of my prescription history at Walgreen’s to the surgeon. My mother, without this document, would not have access to those records.
Durable Power of Attorney & Certification of Agent
Sometimes called a “financial power of attorney”, this document is used to designate an agent to take care of your financial matters if ever you are unable. These documents have a variety of options and provisions to tailor the fiscal authority of the “agent”. This includes the ability to make real property transactions, handle tax matters, and handle business operating decisions.
A Certification of Agent is a reciprocal document signed by the person named as the “agent” in the financial power of attorney. When you select an agent, that agent agrees to a certain level of “fiduciary” responsibilities. Mainly, the agent must act in your best interest and work in a manner that you would come under the same situation.
Realistic Hypothetical: My husband and I are celebrating three beautiful years of marriage. Before marrying him, he purchased a pickup that he financed through a national lender. My husband is called away for work and ends up in an accident in Midland. He is in the Midland hospital and unable to come home for a few weeks. I am not on the title or loan documents for the car he purchased before our marriage. Without this document, I am unable to access his account and make payments.
Last Will & Testament
The quintessential “estate planning document”. Your Will is how you want your probate assets to be distributed when you pass away. Your Will covers all “probate assets”. Common “non-probate assets” include life insurance policies, individual retirement plans, pay-on-death accounts, and property subject to a Transfer on Death Deed. Everything else? Likely a probate asset.
Your Will also plays a significant role in the management of your children if something were to happen to both parents.
There are two significant provisions that you will need to cover kiddos: 1) Financial Guardianship and 2) Guardianship of the Children.
Financial Guardianship. The first provision states who you want to manage the estate (all your things) financially for the benefit of your children.
Guardianship of the Children. The second provision state who you want to actually raise and make decisions for your kids.
Wills can either be handwritten or typed with two witnesses. There are a plethora of Will templates online, but talk with any probate attorney or judge, and you will quickly find that paying an attorney to check off all the possible considerations and fit the Will to you and your family is worth the money.
Realistic Hypothetical: I am a single mom with two elementary-aged children. One of my parents has passed away, and the other is in a nursing home. I have no siblings. I am in an accident and pass away. In this case, your estate and children would go through an intestacy probate process (Texas law decides where my assets go), and my children are subject to a court deciding who should become their guardians. Clearly, your nursing home parent can’t take care of the children, but who is next in line? Cousins? Friends? The court would decide what is in “the best interest of the children”.
Ok, Vic- I get it. These are important, I need to get it done, and it’s not just for old people. So how do I do that and how much is this going to cost me? Well, the truth is many of these documents are readily available online, but just because you’ve watched every HGTV home reno show, doesn’t mean you’re an expert. You might miss some of the minor details or provisions that a professional could really catch and tailor to your family’s specific needs.
For the convenience of Lubbock Moms Blog readers, I am happy to provide an all-inclusive singles or couples’ estate package that includes a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Certification of Agent, Medical Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA Release for each party. For people who like and share this post, I’m offering a $400 discount per package.
It’s so easy to get started! Contact [email protected] or (806)316-7990 to schedule a consultation today. Almost everything can be completed virtually by phone, email, and zoom, so you can have peace of mind without ever leaving your home.