Summer is a Good Time for Planning Ahead
By Lori A. Leu & Erin W. Peirce, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
Remember those summertime family vacations from your childhood? Your parents probably spent months planning the trip down to the last detail, including all the activities the family would enjoy to create lasting memories of summer fun. They invested a lot of time doing the research and juggling the budget to make sure everything was just right. This summer, why not return the favor by helping them tackle the details of their estate planning?
Just like a well-planned vacation, an estate plan takes time, research, and budgeting. You will want to discuss things such as: Who will inherit their property and belongings? Who will make end-of-life decisions in the event that they cannot? Do they want to be buried or cremated? These decisions can be overwhelming and stressful. Having a supportive loved one share in the planning is a true gift.
Where should you start?
Here is a list of estate planning documents to consider:
- Will – The primary purpose of a Will is to declare your intentions regarding the distribution of your property after your death. The type of Will that you need and the way in which your property should be distributed depends upon your particular circumstances and desires.
- Durable Power of Attorney – A statutory durable power of attorney is used to appoint an agent to act in your place regarding financial and legal transactions. Texas law regarding durable powers of attorney changed in 1993, so if you signed one prior to 1993, you may need a new one that complies with current law.
- Medical Power of Attorney – A medical power of attorney enables another person to make health care decisions that you would otherwise make, if you were able. A doctor must declare you to be incapacitated before this authority becomes effective.
- Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (Living Will) – A living will provides direction regarding your desires to administer, withhold, or withdraw life-sustaining treatment if you have an irreversible or terminal condition.
- Authorization to Release Medical Information – In 2003, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) took effect. HIPAA contains medical privacy rules that restrict disclosure of certain health information by health care providers and plans. A HIPAA Authorization will allow the individuals that you specify to have access to your health information so they can assist in decisions that may need to be made regarding your care.
- Declaration of Guardian – In the event that your durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney is not effective, you can further protect your interests by declaring the individuals that you would like to be appointed as guardian over you and your estate (as well as individuals who should not be appointed).
Another item to consider discussing is long-term care insurance. Americans are living longer than ever before, and the cost of care in the final years of life has risen dramatically. A long-term care insurance plan can help ensure that you have good options for quality care, when the time comes. Don’t wait until your family member needs assistance with daily life to start the conversation; advance planning will alleviate much of the stress that can occur when care issues turn into a crisis.
Estate planning might not be as fun as planning a vacation, but it can mean quality time for you and an aging family member. Pull out the old vacation albums and reminisce about those good times, then help your loved one create a legacy for the future.
Lori A. Leu and Erin W. Peirce are Elder Law attorneys with Lori A. Leu & Associates in Plano, Texas. They help clients sort through these issues every day and can be reached at 972-996-2540.