Estate Planning FAQ

Who needs estate planning?

Estate planning is for everyone. Often people say they do not have enough assets to worry about having a will, but when you have worked your whole life for it, then you should have a say as to what happens to it. Disposing of your assets with a will can be your last kind act to the people you leave behind. It is true that “You Can’t Take It with You,” but you can bring joy to those you leave it to and be confident they receive it.

You may not have a million dollars, but you have the opportunity to pass along family heirlooms, expensive or not, and avoid family arguments with a properly structured will. Are you willing to take the chance that your ex-spouse will not spend the money you left your children? Too many people make incorrect assumptions about what happens without a will. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your spouse will receive everything. Even without millions in cash, you may have children who you want to be raised by, or not raised by, a specific person. Being responsible + having loved ones = having a will. That is why estate planning is for everyone.

A little time spent with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure you warm the hearts of your loved ones by thinking of them. At the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr., I have taken steps to remove the excuses, and make our estate planning services convenient.

Common excuses for not having a will:

  1. Lack of property. Even if you do not own a lot now, you may by the time you die. You could win the lottery, inherit money, land a high-paying job. Family heirlooms or sentimental items can be priceless.
  2. Misconception. Some people misunderstand who receives their property if they die without a will. Oftentimes, it is not the way people imagine, especially if they have children from a prior marriage, have a live-in partner, or have joint bank accounts.
  3. Do not care. Even without a large estate, a will provides you with the ability to nominate a guardian of your child and the property you leave your child, instead of letting a court decide.
  4. Cost. A will drafted by an attorney requires spending money which you may prefer to spend on recreation or other needs. However, having an estate plan can make a big difference to those you leave behind. At the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr. my business model allows us to be less expensive than the traditional brick and mortar law offices.
  5. Time. Most people are either working hard and can’t afford to miss work to visit an attorney’s office or would rather do something more fun in their time away from work. Others may be too ill to travel to an attorney’s office. The Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr. was founded so people in these situations can have the same opportunity to create an estate plan and care for their family.
  6. Complicated. Having to go through the mental exercise of listing your assets and their value and deciding who receives what property and when can be a complication some people do not enjoy. However, like many not so pleasant exercises, a lot of good can come from it. Being responsible is not always fun.
  7. Thinking of death. When going through the exercise of creating an estate plan, it requires a person to admit that one day they will die. It is a thought most people would rather not think about. Being responsible is an important part of life and caring for others does require some forethought.
  8. Private. Not many people want to share their personal life with a stranger and discuss their divorces, illnesses, children born outside marriage, and family discord. However, clients can feel confident that statements made to me are confidential and cannot be disclosed without the client’s consent. My job is to help you find the right plan for you and your family without any judgment. The Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr. does not require you to meet face to face with our attorney, so you do not have to be embarrassed about revealing personal matters in person.

Why not use a do-it-yourself will kit?

Would you trust a $30 lock you built yourself to protect all your worldly possessions and your children? Then why would you trust a $30 do-it-yourself drafting kit for your Last Will and Testament? Some do-it-yourself will kits can cost $500, which is around the same cost as having your will drafted by an experienced attorney. Many kits fail to take into consideration your special needs and cause unintended consequences. An experienced estate planning attorney can give your personal circumstances the attention they deserve and can draft a will that is tailored just for you and your family. With today’s blended families and special circumstances, a will in a box may not provide for your family as you intended.

With the wills I draft for you, even if I do not personally oversee the signing of the will, I will still review a copy of your documents for potential errors at no additional cost.

The advantages of a do-it-yourself will kit may be time and money. It is like using the self-checkout counter at the store, but with more serious consequences if you get it wrong. There is no person to guide you through the proper steps and no one to discuss the special needs of your family. At the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr., I do not think you have a cookie cutter family. I believe each client is different and has different needs.

The time and money advantages of drafting your own will may be outweighed by the serious disadvantages. The time and money you may save in the present may cost your estate much more later if your will is found to be invalid or contested because it was not worded clearly. If your will is not signed during a will ceremony in a way that complies with Texas law, then your will may be invalid and your wishes that specific people inherit specific property may not be followed. I have removed both the time and money obstacle with our convenient and personalized services at affordable flat fee pricing.

Why do you need a power of attorney?

A power of attorney  is used to give another person the authority to act on your behalf, usually when you are unable to do so. For example, you may be geographically separated or bed ridden or incapacitated. Learn more about powers of attorney.

Why not use the Texas power of attorney form found on the internet?

Although the Texas statute provides a sample power of attorney, it does not cover certain situations that may arise. For example, if the power of attorney was not executed with an attorney present, then your agent may be prohibited from taking certain actions that you have given them.

Why would you want a medical power of attorney?

A medical power of attorney (MPOA) allows you to control your own medical decisions even if you become unable to communicate. It only becomes effective if your attending physician certifies in writing that you are incompetent. Without one, your next of kin can make some medical decisions, but will not have the authority to decide whether to withdraw life support treatment. This could require your family to incur the time and expense to request a court to appoint a guardian. There is an endless list of uncomfortable scenarios that can arise without an MPOA, such as a new spouse making treatment decisions without consulting your adult children or your estranged spouse being your next of kin. You can prevent these problems by selecting a person to act on your behalf. Learn more about medical powers of attorney.

Why would you want a HIPAA Authorization Form?

A HIPAA Authorization allows you to give another person access to your medical records and allows your physician to update the person you choose on your medical condition. The federal patient privacy laws prohibit physicians from sharing your medical information in many situations without your authorization. Without the HIPAA Authorization Form, the privacy rules may interfere with a person relying solely on a power of attorney to take care of your financial affairs during your incapacitation.  

Further, some powers of attorney, (e.g. springing power of attorney, medical power of attorney) are only effective when you become incapacitated. But how will your agent learn if you are incapacitated? For example, the person you name in a medical power of attorney can only make healthcare decisions for you when you become incapacitated (and the physician records it in your medical records). However, the agent will not know if you are incapacitated if the physician will not tell them your medical condition and they cannot have access to your medical records. The HIPAA Authorization Form allows your agent to receive the medical information from your physician and/or medical records. It can also allow your physician to discuss your medical condition with your children, even if you give the medical power of attorney to your spouse.

If you have additional questions about estate planning, I am here to help. Contact the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr. for a free consultation about your family's estate planning needs.