Category: Power of Attorney

Houston Estate Lawyer Answers, “How Does a Power of Attorney Document Work?

A power of attorney (POA) is a document that serves as a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf. However, a POA does not necessarily give someone the right to make all decisions. There are different type of POAs, and they have different rules determining the abilities of the person named as Power of Attorney.  As a Houston Estate Attorney, I want to be clear that if you are an agent under POA, it is important to know what decisions you can, and cannot make on behalf of the grantor. Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding POAs.

Do I have the authority to make medical or financial decisions for the grantor? Or both?

You can have either a financial or medical power of attorney. You may have already guessed but a financial power of attorney has authority over your financial matters and a medical power of attorney can have power over medical decisions. A medical power of attorney can have many different guidelines or limitations depending on the desires of the grantor. While it is possible that you have been granted the power to make both medical and financial decisions, it is important to point out that two different legal documents must be executed.

Does this Power of Attorney expire after a set time period or does it go on forever?

This can depend on the state you live in and what that state allows. If your power of attorney expires after a set time, it is important to renew or set up a new power of attorney at that time. If your power of attorney is durable that means that it will hold authority granted by the documents unless the individual chooses to revoke the power of attorney. If you do have a durable power of attorney it is still important to regularly review the document, as some instructions will not accept a power of attorney that is over a certain age, which is typically 12-24 months.

Is my Power of Attorney effective now or after a triggering event?

Many POAs are effective at the time that the document it executed. However, if you wish, you can make it effective only after a certain triggering event such as incapacity.

If you have been named as an agent under a POA for someone, be sure to periodically review the document with an experienced Houston estate attorney who can ensure that you have the decision making authority you need. If you do not have a POA, you should consider putting one in place to ensure that someone can speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. Contact us today at  (281) 218-0880 to get started.

Houston Will Lawyers: Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs Now

We have all heard stories of families that found themselves in a tailspin because a loved one passed away or became incapacitated without a proper estate plan. No matter what your age, you could really leave your family with a mess to clean up during an already very emotional time if you get sick or die without the right legal documents in place. It is important to help make things as easy as possible for the people you love by having your affairs in order. Here are five documents to consider creating right away.

  1. Last Will and Testament and/or Living Trust

A will is a document used to leave instructions about what should happen to your property after you die. In addition, you can use a will to name guardians for your minor children and even your pets. Depending on your situation, a Living Trust may add another layer of protection and control to your planning while allowing your family to avoid the potential costly (and slow!) probate process after you die. Your loved ones will be relieved to know that your final affairs will be administered smoothly using these documents and that they are properly carrying out your wishes.

  1. Durable power of attorney

A power of attorney allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf financially and legally in case you cannot make decisions. If you do not designate someone, your loved one’s hands could be tied if you are incapacitated. Many people put off creating a durable power of attorney because they think they are relinquishing control. This is not necessarily the case, as you can create a power of attorney that only takes effect if and when you are incapacitated if this is an issue for you.

  1. A medical power of attorney or living will

This document is different from the power of attorney described above. The medical power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate to medical professionals. A living will also allows you to explain in advance what type of care you do or do not want in all types of medical situations.

  1. List of important documents

Make a list directing your family on how to find all of your financial and legal documents. The list should include life insurance policies, annuities, pension or retirement accounts, bank accounts, divorce records, birth/adoption certificates, real estate deeds, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. If possible, include a list of bills and accounts so that someone can settle and close them.

If you do not have these documents in place, call our Houston Will and Trust Lawyers today to find out how easy and quick the process can be. Not only will your family benefit from your thoughtfulness, but you will be able to make your own decisions instead of leaving them to the courts. Schedule a consultation by simply calling 281-218-0880.

Complete a Complete Estate Plan

When it comes to planning, the focus is typically on making you better prepared for the future. That means limiting taxes, creating wiser investment strategies, knowing when it’s best to claim Social Security and developing sustainable retirement income plans. All of these help you on the path to your financial future and your long-term goals. But The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch reports in “3 common estate planning questions, answered,” that there is, however, one exception. That’s estate planning. While much of financial planning primarily benefits you, your estate planning primarily benefits your family and loved ones. 11-14-16

The basic component of your estate plan is your will but there may be other parts you need. Depending on your estate, you may want to consider a trust, in addition to healthcare directives, powers of attorneys and guardian designations. You should also remember that your will isn't necessarily the only instruction when it comes to distributing your assets. The beneficiary designations on your retirement and brokerage accounts, and the life insurance policies you own will take precedence over what you say in your will. Review beneficiary designations regularly to be sure the money in your accounts or the death benefit on a life insurance policy goes to the right person.

A trust can be complicated, so talk with an estate planning attorney to see if it makes sense and whether you'll actually benefit from using a trust. If most of your assets are covered by beneficiary designations or owned in joint tenancy, those assets are already exempt from probate, so they won’t necessarily benefit from a trust strategy.

The executor or the personal representative is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will, settling your debts and paying taxes on your estate. As far as selecting an executor, it should be someone with the capacity to carry out the needed tasks of the position. It also needs to be someone who is willing to serve and is familiar with your situation such as a family member or a close family friend.

If you don't spend every last dollar you have to your name on the day you die, you'll need to have an estate plan. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to develop one.

Reference: The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch (Sept. 23, 2016) “3 common estate planning questions, answered”

A Few Words of Advice for Getting Married in Your Golden Years

If you're in your senior years, you may want to think twice before tying the knot. The love bug can bite at any age, and that can include pain in your wallet. This advice comes from The Hartford (CT) Courant in its recent article “Fit to Be Tied? Think Twice About Marriage in Your Golden Years.”

A late marriage can mess up your previous plans for your estate, personal finances, as well as any advance directives for your end-of-life health care. It can also impact decisions you've made and will make, in addition to those of your spouse and heirs. 11-11-16

No one is saying that older folks shouldn’t marry. They just need to be aware of the impact it may have on their plans. Elder law attorneys advise that those thinking about marriage later in life, at the time when personal wealth is typically the highest, understand the laws on the property rights of both spouses.

Property owned jointly or exclusively by either spouse is deemed to be marital property when it comes to divorce settlement or settling an estate in many states. If you understand the applicable property rights before the marriage, it’ll let you modify your wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies and designated beneficiaries to avoid legal conflicts in the future. Those who marry later in life must face several estate planning issues younger couples don’t. For example, there may be an accumulation of considerable assets or both may have children from earlier relationships.

Marriage is a legal contract between two people that can only be ended by death, annulment or divorce. The laws concerning marriage typically aim to protect the rights and interests of both spouses. One spouse can’t entirely “disinherit" their surviving spouse, regardless of what he or she writes in a will. Under the law of some states, a surviving spouse is entitled to the income generated from a third of their late spouse’s estate for the rest of their life after all its liabilities are settled.

A good idea to eliminate possible hard feelings is a professionally drafted prenuptial agreement. This document details the legal course to be followed in the event of divorce and decreases the possibility of major disagreements.

Reference: The Hartford (CT) Courant (Sept. 24, 2016) “Fit to Be Tied? Think Twice About Marriage in Your Golden Years”