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Essential Estate Planning Documents Checklist

Essential Estate Planning Documents Checklist image

Estate planning involves creating legal documents outlining your healthcare, financial affairs, and property management preferences. These documents are crucial as they guide your family in making decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. They also clarify your intentions for distributing your assets and property after passing away.

Even though you can verbally tell your family what you want, estate planning documents have legal weight and can be enforced in court. If you’re wondering what documents are needed for estate planning, you’ve come to the right place.

Last Will and Testament

In Texas, a last will and testament, or “will.” serves as your roadmap for distributing your assets after you pass away. It lets you decide who inherits your property, who manages your estate, and who looks after any minor children you have.

If you need to change your will, you can add a codicil. You must follow the same strict rules you used to make the original will. This way, you can update your wishes as your life evolves without needing to start from scratch.

Dying without a will means you leave the distribution of your assets up to Texas intestate laws. What does that mean for you? If you pass away “intestate,” the state steps in and divides your assets based on a preset formula, which might not reflect your wishes and can especially complicate things for non-traditional families or unmarried partners.

Draft a will that clearly describes your desires to ensure your assets go exactly where you want them. This step keeps you in control rather than leaving critical decisions to impersonal state laws.

Having a will in place prevents stress for those already grieving by eliminating complications that can arise without an estate plan.

Durable Power of Attorney

In Texas, a general power of attorney grants someone the authority to handle your affairs, such as financial transactions or property management. However, this power typically ceases if you become incapacitated.

In contrast, a durable power of attorney (DPOA) remains effective even if you face medical or other conditions that lead to mental incapacity. This feature makes a DPOA an essential tool in estate planning, ensuring that your chosen agent can continue managing your affairs without interruption, regardless of your health status.

Under a DPOA, you can grant your agent a wide range of powers, including:

  • Managing your financial assets
  • Making investment decisions
  • Handling real estate transactions
  • Dealing with government agencies, like the IRS

This broad authority helps ensure that someone you trust is always in charge and ready to act in your best interests.

Texas recognizes two types of durable powers of attorney: immediate and springing. An immediate DPOA takes effect as soon as you sign it, giving your agent the authority right away. On the other hand, a springing DPOA only activates under circumstances you specify, such as a medical doctor declaring you incapacitated.

By choosing the right type of DPOA for your needs, you can achieve continuity in managing your affairs, providing peace of mind for both you and your family.

Medical Power of Attorney

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In Texas, a Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. This vital estate planning tool ensures that your healthcare preferences are honored, even when you can’t voice them yourself.

With an MPOA, you grant your designated agent the authority to make a wide array of medical decisions. These can range from choosing medical treatments and accessing your medical records to deciding on your admission to or discharge from a healthcare facility. Importantly, this agent can also make decisions about palliative care and end-of-life treatment, aligning any medical intervention with your personal values and preferences.

Having an MPOA in place in Texas is crucial as it places control in the hands of someone you trust, helps prevent family conflicts, and aligns decisions regarding your health with your wishes.

Get Your Estate Planning Started Today

The estate planning documents checklist here covers only the basics. To ensure your plan is comprehensive and tailored to your needs, avoid relying on online documents. Instead, consult Staubus and Randall, which boasts over a century of combined experience in drafting and defending estate planning documents in Dallas and throughout Texas. Contact Staubus and Randall online or by calling 214-691-3411 to experience big-firm benefits in a boutique atmosphere and get personalized, professional attention to every detail of your estate plan.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

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What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

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"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

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"Keith Staubus and Julie Blankenship and their team represented me in a jury trial in the probate court where the ownership of the business which I had worked hard to build was at stake. They successfully fought to preserve my business and my professional reputation, working masterfully to gain the support of the jury. I would not hesitate to hire them again in any bet-the-company litigation.”

Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

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