When is the last time that you and a group of friends sat around and discussed your own mortality? It is not a common topic of discussion, to be sure. However, in closer circles, such as with a spouse or adult children, etc., it is helpful not only to discuss such issues but to make sure that you have, at least, a basic understanding of estate planning terms, such as wills and directives.
There’s no way for you to predict with 100% certainty when you will pass from this world. It may give you comfort to know, though, that there are steps you can take to control what happens to your assets after you die. You can also provide instructions to help medical workers and family members know what to do if an urgent situation arises and you become incapacitated.
There are medical and financial directives available
An advance directive in an estate plan is somewhat self-explanatory. It’s a document that directs people to do something. One type of advance directive is also referred to as a living will. By signing this type of document, you can express your health care wishes, such as whether or not you want to be resuscitated if medical workers are faced with this decision.
If you want another person to be able to make financial decisions on your behalf, you might consider signing a financial Power of Attorney, which is another type of advance directive. If you’re receiving palliative care for a terminal illness or a crisis situation arises where you don’t have time to discuss important health care or financial matters, having an estate plan in place can provide immediate directives to your loved ones and caretakers.
What about wills?
One of the most basic estate planning documents is a last will and testament. This is something that you sign while you are alive and sound in mind. The terms of the document are activated accordingly upon your death. You can cover any number of topics in your will, such as who should take custody of minor children if you die or what you want to do with the family business you started years ago.
Your last and will and testament can be updated or changed as needed, provided you are still of sound mind when such changes are made. For instance, you might have your spouse listed as a beneficiary to your assets but want to update your plan if you get divorced and remarried.
Learn more about the estate planning process ahead of time
Less than 40% of adults in Texas and throughout the country have signed a will or other estate planning documents. For those who have not done so, it’s important to note that dying without a will means that an estate becomes intestate. If you die under these conditions, the state will determine how to distribute your property, which may or not align with what you might have chosen if you had left instructions in a will.