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  • Writer's pictureChiang Law Firm


Here in the Texas Gulf Coast most people know to be prepared for severe weather: charge your phone and flashlights, fill up your tank with gas, stock up on food and water. In addition, you should keep your important documents accessible and safe during a storm, preferably in a fireproof and waterproof box that can be evacuated with you if needed. Weather events are scary, but with preparation, you can ride out the storm to recovery.

However, are you ready for a LIFE emergency? Life emergencies happen every day! I'm sure you know someone who was taken surprise by an unexpected health event or accident. Estate Planning doesn't always have to be about passing your estate when someone dies. As an Estate Planning attorney I hate to take calls from families begging me to do a Power of Attorney, only to realize that their loved one already lost consciousness and couldn't execute their documents. Estate planning is also about having a plan for disability or incapacity. Here's the three basic documents I recommend for disability planning that can be used to make decisions on your behalf if you can't make them yourself:

Durable Power of Attorney - a Durable Power of Attorney, or sometimes called a financial power of attorney, gives someone you designate the power to handle your business affairs such as paying bills, selling property, designating payable on death beneficiaries, or even giving gifts, accessing financial accounts or creating trusts. This can be effective immediately or upon incapacity. However, as soon as someone dies, this power goes away so it is very important that your Durable Power of Attorney is a part of a larger estate plan that involves a Will or a Trust.

Medical Power of Attorney - A Medical Power of Attorney allows someone to make medical decisions when you can't talk to your doctors or nurses. The Medical Power of Attorney is only effective upon incapacity, when you can't communicate for yourself.

Advanced Directive - Tells your Medical Power of Attorney what your wishes are for life-ending medical treatment decisions in the event of incapacity. Addresses Terminal conditions (conditions where the illness will likely kill you within 6 months, such as aggressive cancer) as well as Irreversible conditions (conditions where the illness lowers your quality of life, but not kill you, such as being in a coma).

Most of my clients argue that they don't need these documents because they're married and their spouse can just take care of them. While it is true the law gives the spouse the first priority to do a lot of powers, it is not true that the law allows the spouse to do everything. For example, it is NOT possible for a spouse to manage separate property on behalf of a disabled spouse without a Durable Power of Attorney. The spouse will need to get a guardianship which are costly and time consuming to obtain in an emergency.

I also firmly believe that parents should have these documents for young adult children because it is not obvious who the person should decide what to do in the even that a young person is disabled. Should it be the mother? The Father? What if the young person was estranged from their parents and really only trusts a friend or other relative? Having these documents in place clarifies the roles so that the person who should be making the decision can act when you're most vulnerable.

If you or someone you know is ready to get your plan in place, please CONTACT US at 713-568-9206 to set up a consultation for an estate plan that meets your needs!

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