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Every Texan needs to create and maintain certain legal documents in order to assure security for oneself and loved ones. At a minimum, these are some of the most important documents estate planning attorneys recommend having in place:

  • An advance health care directive
  • A durable power of attorney
  • A will

An advance health care directive provides instructions to health care professionals, to be used when the patient is not able to make or communicate instructions or decisions regarding his or her own health care. This form lists specific kinds of procedures a patient might or might not want. Importantly, the advance directive also names people who are entrusted with making health care decisions when the patient is unable to do so.

A power of attorney is a legal form that appoints someone to carry out financial transactions on behalf of the person who fills out and signs the form. There are several variations on this document. A common type, a durable power of attorney, continues to be effective even when its creator is incapacitated or passes away, making it possible to draw funds from bank accounts, transfer property and do other necessary business on behalf of the individual.

Almost everyone is familiar with wills, but too many people do not have one. A will makes it clear what is to be done with a person’s possessions after death and names a personal representative who sees to it that the wishes expressed in the will are carried out. When a person dies without making a will, state law takes over in determining what happens to the estate, and property might be distributed in a way the individual would not have wanted.

Just as important as creating these documents in the first place is updating them when life-changing events occur. Some occasions that call for updates include:

  • A change in marital status through marriage, divorce or death of a spouse
  • A change in children, including birth and adoption
  • The purchase, sale or refinancing of a home

Obviously, a change in family members will drive the need to change important estate planning documents. Many married people want their spouse to make their emergency medical decisions, for example. And naming a guardian for children is an important part of a will as well.

Estate planning lawyers recommend reviewing important estate planning documents at regular intervals throughout a person’s lifetime. At a minimum, every Texan should remember to make the needed updates at life’s milestones. To create and update these important documents, consult with an experienced attorney. The attorney can continue to be a valuable resource as inevitable changes will be required.