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Key estate planning documents in the event of disability

Texans who take the necessary steps by completing their estate plan often believe that a will is sufficient. However, the reality is that there are other documents that are necessary for full and encompassing protection. If, for example, the person becomes incapacitated, there are strategies that should be in place. There are multiple alternatives to account for this type of event and it is imperative to know what they are and select those that apply.

A medical power of attorney - also referred to as an advanced health care directive - allows the testator to select the person or persons who will decide about their health care if there is illness or injury. A durable power of attorney is for those who become incapacitated and need someone to pay bills, manage their finances and more. This differs from a basic power of attorney which will not be in effect when the person becomes incapacitated.

A living will details the medical care a person will and will not receive if there is a terminal illness or another reason the person is dying without a chance to recover. The health care agent ensures that the person's desires will be adhered to. A revocable living trust can be used to avoid problems that sometimes arise with a power of attorney. People with vast estates can benefit from a revocable living trust. Assets will be shifted into the trust and the person will designate him or herself as the trustee. The assets are managed by the person like they were before the trust. There will be a designated successor trustee if the person becomes incapacitated. This person will manage the trust. With a living trust, a durable power of attorney will not be needed.

Everyone has different goals and preferences when it comes to creating strategies for an estate plan. Understanding the choices that are available is the first step to building a comprehensive plan that addresses all important matters. A legal professional experienced in estate planning can provide guidance and advice with various powers of attorney and trusts.

Source: marketwatch.com, "This is the most important person to remember in your estate plan," Brad Wiewel, Nov. 17, 2017

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