Powers Of Attorney In Austin, TX
A proper estate plan not only handles your estate; it also takes care of you during your lifetime. Who will handle your finances if you are unable? Who will make medical and treatment decisions on your behalf if you are unable?
Statistically, it is more likely you will become disabled at any point in your life than die. However, since everyone dies but not everyone becomes disabled, many people overlook this aspect of estate planning. If something happens to you, someone should have the authority to access your bank accounts, contact utility companies on your behalf, make sure the rent or mortgage gets paid and even make medical decisions.
The Daves Law Firm assists clients in Austin, Texas in preparing effective durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney and other ancillary estate planning documents to protect clients during their lifetimes.
What Is A Durable Power of Attorney?
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to name a person (or persons) to manage your money and property if you become disabled and cannot do so yourself. For instance, if you end up in the hospital, your agent under Durable Power of Attorney will be the one to pay your bills.
Without a Durable Power of Attorney, third-parties such as banks will not allow your family to handle your money if something happens to you. Your family must then obtain court permission to transact business on your behalf by establishing a court-ordered guardianship over you. Guardianship is an expensive, intrusive and time-consuming legal process. An effective durable power of attorney avoids the expense and time required to obtain guardianship.
What Is A Medical Power of Attorney?
When a treatment decision needs to be made, it can be difficult to obtain consensus among a roomful of anxious relatives. A Medical power of attorney prevents family squabbling over what type of medical treatment you should receive if something happens to you.
The Medical Power of Attorney allows you to name an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable. You can nominate anyone you choose, such as a spouse, partner, adult child, or trusted friend. If you do not have a Medical Power of Attorney, then Texas state law determines who gets to make decisions about your healthcare, and this can result in a poor outcome.
The Medical Power of attorney is especially crucial in the case of unmarried couples. Without the appointment as the statutory agent, a “partner” may be excluded from the decision-making, particularly if the patient’s biological family does not want to include the partner.
Does My Agent Under Medical Power Of Attorney Decide Whether To Keep Me On Life Support?
It depends. If you also have a Directive to Physicians (i.e. a Living Will) which states your wishes as to end-of-life decisions, then your Living Will controls. Your agent under Medical Power of Attorney would have authority over all other treatment decisions except for end-of-life decisions.
If however you had a Medical Power of Attorney but no Living Will, then end-of-life decisions would fall to your agent. Many people wish to execute a Living Will to relieve their Medical agent from having to make that decision if the situation arises.
If I Am Married, Do I Need Durable Power Of Attorney Over My Spouse?
The answer is yes. Many people mistakenly assume that because they are married, they have authority to act on behalf of their spouse in the event of disability or incapacity. This is not strictly true. While you might still be able to access joint bank accounts, you will eventually run into roadblocks. For instance, if your spouse becomes disabled and it becomes necessary to sell your house, a title company will not allow the sale of the home unless you can produce a power of attorney showing you have the authority to consent to the sale on behalf of your spouse, or a court-order showing you are the guardian of your spouse’s estate.
Can I Revoke My Power Of Attorney?
Yes, as long as you still have mental capacity you can revoke your powers of attorney at any time. A power of attorney only becomes irrevocable after you have lost your mental capacity.
Can I Name Co-Agents On My Power Of Attorney?
Yes, you can name co-agents. This is not always advisable, however. For instance, the possibility exists that your agents might have a disagreement. If you appoint two co-agents and they disagree, then there is nobody to break the tie and they wind up in Court to have a judge settle the issue. Also, it can be more administratively difficult for your agents to act under your power of attorney if two agents need to sign off on every action taken.
The better practice is to name one agent on your power of attorney, and also name one or two people who could serve as backups in the event your first agent is unable to serve. In the case
of a married couple, for instance, spouses can name each other as their first agents, and adult children, or friends or other relatives as backup agents.
If You Don’t Decide; The Court Will Decide
Say you become disabled/incapacitated and are unable to manage your affairs. Banks and financial institutions will not allow your family to transact business on your behalf or manage your assets unless you have powers of attorney. In fact, the bank will likely not even speak with your family unless they see a power of attorney.
If you do not authorize someone to act on your behalf through a power of attorney, your family will have to go to Court to get a court-ordered guardianship over you. A guardianship is a legal relationship between a Ward (an incapacitated person) and a Guardian (the person appointed by a judge to take care of the Ward). The person the Court selects to be your guardian may not
be the person you want taking care of you.
Guardianship is a time-consuming, costly process, and is an invasion of privacy. Guardianship is completely court-supervised, so your Guardian must deal with the Courts on a yearly basis once the Guardianship is established. Guardianship can be avoided if you have effective medical and durable powers of attorney in place.
From our Austin office, we prepare powers of attorney throughout the area, including Hays County, Buda, Kyle, Dripping Springs, Driftwood, Northwest Hills, Round Rock, Pfluegerville, and Williamson County.