The FAQ’s of Estate Planning #5: What is the Purpose of a Power of Attorney?

Many clients do not understand the purpose or uses of a power of attorney as a part of their estate planning.

The Answer:  Powers of Attorney (Medical and Financial) allow you to designate someone to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event that you are alive but not able to make those decisions for yourself.  The Powers of Attorney cease to be effective as soon as you die, but prior to death, they are very important because they allow you to designate someone to interact with your doctors and banks to ensure that decisions are made for you when you cannot make them for yourself.

The FAQ’s of Estate Planning #4: Can I Designate a Charity Under My Will?

Another question that we receive frequently is whether or not a person can designate a charity as a beneficiary under their Will.

The Answer:  Yes.  Clients frequently want to leave a gift to their church, college, or favorite charity under their Will.  These gifts help those organizations to continue pursuing their missions long after your death and allow you to make a long-lasting contribution to your church, college, or other non-profit organization.

The FAQ’s of Estate Planning #3: Can I Use a Form From the Internet?

An Important question that we hear frequently: “Can I Use a Form From the Internet to Create My Own Will?”

The Answer:  The law allows for you to use a form off the internet, but again, this is not a great idea.  These forms are not usually specific to the laws of Texas, so we frequently see clients bring in a loved one’s Will that was created off the internet only to find out that it was missing a requirement under Texas law and is either invalid or is going to require more effort and expense to probate.  Unfortunately, by the time they make this discovery, their loved one has passed away, and the problems cannot be fixed.  These problems can generally be avoided by having a qualified attorney assist in the preparation of the Will.

The FAQ’s of Estate Planning #2: Can I Make a Will Myself?

Another question that we receive routinely is, “Can I Make a Will Myself?”

The Answer:  Texas law does allow someone to create a Will on their own, but it is typically not a good idea.  A holographic, or handwritten, Will must be completely in your own handwriting, and it should be signed and dated.  If you type the Will, it must be signed, dated, and witnessed by two witnesses.  However, we frequently see cases where someone tried to create their own Will but ended up creating a huge mess instead.  After death, the self-created Will creates problems because the person who created it did not understand the correct terminology and had unintentionally made ambiguous statements that were not interpreted correctly by the family or the courts.  Those mistakes often lead to huge fights that result in fractured families and divisions of property not intended by the deceased.  It is much more advisable to have a competent attorney assist you in preparing a Will.