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When people think of estate planning, they tend to think of wills and trusts as the only documents that are needed. However, a situation may arise in which you need someone to make decisions for you or act on your behalf if you are incapable of doing so yourself. Each of these documents below, and the last will and testament of the individual, come together to create a complete package, protecting the individual’s interests and assets. The documents listed below are “pre-death” documents, meaning your loved ones can use these documents to make decisions while you are alive but become unable to make decisions for yourself.
The Statutory Durable Powers of Attorney are very powerful documents designed to allow the designated person or persons to manage your financial affairs. For instance, your agent has the power to buy and sell real estate, open and close bank accounts, change beneficiaries on life insurance, retirement plans and individual retirement accounts, and sign your tax returns. These are just a few of the powers you will be giving to your agent. Accordingly, your agent needs to be a person you trust completely.
The Medical Powers of Attorney allow the designated person or persons to consent to medical care on your behalf should you suffer an injury or become mentally disabled. The Medical Powers of Attorney are designed to become effective if you become unable to make your own health care decisions and your physician certifies that fact in writing. The agent you appoint may consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment and may make decisions about withdrawing or withholding life‑sustaining treatment. Your agent's authority begins when your doctor certifies that you lack the capacity to make health care decisions. Unless you state otherwise, your agent has the same authority to make decisions about your health care as you would have had.
The Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (also known as a "Living Will" or an "Advance Directive") is a relatively new form created by the Texas legislature. You will need to make certain choices regarding the types of medical treatments that will be provided to you under certain circumstances (i.e. whether to maintain life sustaining care when you are in a terminal condition).
The Declaration of Guardian forms are designed to allow you to designate who will be allowed to serve as the guardian of your person and of your estate should one ever need to be appointed. You may also declare that you do not want a particular person to serve as your guardian. Hopefully, you will never need to have a guardian appointed for you, but if you do, the judge will be aware of your thoughts and desires.