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Medical powers of attorney are essential to Texas estate planning

Many Texas residents believe that a will is the extent of a good estate plan. However, a will is typically only useful when a person passes away. There are other documents, such as durable and medical powers of attorney, that can save a family a good deal of frustration should an individual become incapacitated in such a way as to be unable to make important decisions.

In the absence of such documents, it could take months and thousands of dollars for a family to have the legal right to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. Further, family members may not have the right to conduct that person's financial affairs during incapacitation without a durable power of attorney. No one knows when he or she may become incapacitated, so the sooner these documents are discussed and put into place, the better.

Whoever is chosen to make medical and/or financial decisions needs to know where the documents are located and have his or her own copy in case of emergency. The less time that is wasted searching for relevant documentation may provide more time to make important lifesaving decisions. The party named in a durable power of attorney can also quickly make financial decisions, such as paying bills and transferring funds that might be necessary for the care of the patient.

Thinking about becoming incapacitated is not pleasant. Nevertheless, aging Texas parents are not the only ones that can benefit from having these documents in place. Unexpected events can occur on a moment's notice, and without durable and medical powers of attorney, things can quickly become complicated. Properly drafting and executing these documents does require that certain language and procedures be followed in order for them to be valid when needed. Having a working knowledge of Texas laws regarding these issues can avoid confusion and additional heartache for family in the event of an emergency.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Retirement: Make sure you have the right documents, Sandra Block, Dec. 10, 2013

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