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Texas case shows importance of adult guardianship instructions

One important aspect of completing the estate planning process is having a living will on file. This way, if a Texas resident is incapacitated and unable to make decisions for him or herself, a medical power of attorney will be clearly defined. It is also important to keep such documents up to date in the event of a major life change, such as being separated from an estranged spouse. Even prior to finalizing a divorce, one can have a different family member serve as one's medical power of attorney in one's estate guardianship instructions.

A recent guardianship case in Texas highlights why many individuals will want to maintain up-to-date estate paperwork. After a 43-year-old man suffered a major heart attack last month, his wife, who had been estranged from him, flew to Texas from out of state in order to have his life support turned off. The woman (who was in the middle of a bitter divorce battle with her husband) told the hospital to remove him from life support without consulting his parents first.

However, after life support was turned off, the man began to breathe on his own. His parents moved swiftly to gain temporary guardianship from the courts and had their son's feeding tube and life support quickly put back in place. The order of temporary guardianship will only last for a period of 60 days. At that time, the family will apply for permanent guardianship if necessary.

This man, who is now showing signs of improvement and consciousness, might have lost his life if not for his parents' quick thinking. The situation is a prime example of why Texas residents include a medical power of attorney and guardianship instructions in their estate planning. A will and estate plan is not only a way for people to decide what will happen to their possessions after they die, but it is a way for people to create a plan to be used if they are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves.

Source: kxan.com, "Parents win guardianship of adult son on life support", Dawn Denny, March 28, 2014

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