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San Antonio living will attorneyAdvance medical directives are extremely important for everyone. Even if you are young and healthy, you never know when an emergency could arise, and you will need those documents to fall back on. For those who are older or anticipate that they may become incapacitated in the near future, these documents are critical. Living wills, medical powers of attorney, and Do Not Resuscitate orders are your voice when you can no longer speak for yourself. Everyone has their own wishes regarding what types of care they would or would not want to receive should they become incapacitated and seriously ill. Creating an incapacity plan to express these wishes is the first step. Making sure that your wishes are going to be carried out in practice is equally important. 

Steps You Can Take Toward Ensuring That Your Wishes Are Respected

You know what your wishes are better than anyone else. Unfortunately, not everyone may agree with your decisions. Family members sometimes make irrational decisions during times of emotional stress, especially when a loved one seems to be dying. Some measures you can make to keep your documents in control of the situation include: 

  • Visibility - If you do not wish to be resuscitated, make sure that any emergency responders will see your DNR before they start the process of reviving you. Hang a copy above your bed or over your favorite chair. Other documents should be kept somewhere that they can be easily located. 
  • Choosing the right POA - Think very carefully about who to name as your medical power of attorney. Make sure this individual understands and respects your wishes and is prepared to carry them out, no matter what. For example, if you know that your sister has deeply held religious views about preserving life at all costs, when you would rather be allowed to pass away peacefully in certain situations, consider someone else. 
  • Distributing copies - Your health care team should have a copy of any advance directives you have made. If you live in a care home, they should have your documents on file, as should the hospital you normally use and any hospital you may be taken to in an emergency. Your power of attorney should also have copies. 
  • Clarity - Make sure that your wishes are expressed as clearly and explicitly as possible. Be as specific as you can. 
  • Put it in writing- If you do not already have advance directives, the time to make them is right now. No amount of talking about what your wishes would be with your loved ones can help you if you do not follow through with creating legally binding documents. 

Your attorney will also be able to give your further advice based on your own unique situation. 

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Texas estate planning lawyerLosing a close family member is always difficult, no matter what. Administrating a family member’s estate can be emotionally challenging even if they had a strong estate plan and the administration can be carried out smoothly. When there is no estate plan, the difficulty level can skyrocket for the surviving family members. During a period of grief, they will have the added stress of trying to sort out the estate without the decedent’s guidance.

In Texas, when a person passes away without an estate plan, their estate must go through a process called intestate probate. Essentially, in the absence of an estate plan, state law determines who should receive what. While the intestacy structure is designed to approximate what you probably would have wanted, there is no guarantee that this reflects your actual wishes. This is one of many reasons that estate planning is important for everyone. 

How Does Intestate Probate Work in Bexar County?

Probate is a much-dreaded process even when the decedent left a will and there are no disputes. It can be time-consuming and costly. Intestate probate can be even more complicated. The court will need to appoint a personal representative, and it might not be the person you personally would have chosen. 

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San Antonio estate planning lawyerUsing a portion of your estate to support a cause you believe in can be an excellent way to build a lasting legacy. When you leave money or property to a charity in an estate plan, you can keep making the world a better place long after you are gone. Your surviving loved ones will have the benefit of seeing the good you are still doing every day. The benefits of posthumous charitable giving are numerous. You will have options for how you go about designating a portion of your estate for charity. It is a good idea to talk over your options with a qualified estate planning lawyer who can help you make the most of any charitable giving you use your estate plan to accomplish. 

What You Should Know About Charitable Giving Through Estate Planning

Setting up your estate plan so that some funds go to a good cause does not have to be difficult or complicated, although you should have an attorney assist you. If you are considering using your estate to help out a charitable organization, some things to be aware of include: 

  • Tax benefits - Making a testamentary gift to a qualified nonprofit can help reduce any tax burdens on your estate. 
  • Types of gifts - The gift you make to a charity does not have to be strictly monetary. Many charities accept or even ask for other types of property to be donated. You could consider leaving property like clothing, furniture, or a vehicle to the organization of your choice. 
  • Put it in writing - Even if you believe that your surviving loved ones - often adult children - can be trusted to comply with your wishes and share a portion of your estate funds with your favorite charity, it is still a good idea to work your planned gift directly into your estate plan. Otherwise, your intention is not legally enforceable and you cannot be sure that your preferred cause will ever see a dime. 
  • Give any amount - You do not have to be a wealthy philanthropist to make a difference. Testamentary gifts to charity do not have to be anything grand. Even a couple hundred dollars or some gently used items could make a difference for your favorite nonprofit and those it serves. 
  • You have options - There are multiple different strategies for charitable giving in an estate plan. You can choose between making a one-time gift in a will, creating a charitable trust, or earmarking a portion of an existing trust to distribute money for charitable purposes over time. 

Your attorney will be able to help make sure you understand all your options for using your estate to benefit a cause you believe in. 

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San Antonio living will lawyerMany people think that the term “estate planning” is synonymous with writing a will. However, a will is only one component of the estate planning process. Estate planning is not only planning for the distribution of your assets upon your death, but also planning for your possible incapacitation. Many people are terminally ill and unable to make decisions for themselves long before they pass away. Planning for the possibility of incapacitation by illness or injury is very important. Nothing better exemplifies the need for incapacitation planning than the Terri Schiavo case.

Legal and Familial Turmoil Caused by Uncertainty

When she was just 26 years old, Terri Schiavo went into cardiac arrest. She suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen that put her in a vegetative state. Doctors had little hope of her ever regaining consciousness. Terri’s husband did not believe that his wife would want to live in that condition. In 1998, he sought to have her breathing tube removed so she could die naturally. However, Terri’s parents strongly disagreed. They wanted their daughter to be kept alive by any means necessary – even if she could never again interact with the world or communicate with loved ones.

The disagreement about whether to keep Terri alive through artificial means developed into a full-blown legal battle. By the time the matter was resolved, the case involved 14 separate appeals and numerous hearings. Eventually, the feeding tube was removed and Terri passed away.

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Comal County estate planning lawyerRevocable living trusts can offer a number of benefits over standalone wills. The idea of an irrevocable trust can be frightening for some, as it is not easily altered once it exists. Revocable trusts are more flexible and can accomplish quite a few different goals. These trusts can generally be administered rather smoothly and with little or no court oversight. Many people prefer to use this type of flexible trust as their main testamentary document. Before you choose a type of trust, make sure that you speak with an attorney and discuss the goals you want to accomplish and your financial situation. A qualified estate planning lawyer can help you decide whether a revocable living trust is the right estate planning tool for you. 

What Are the Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust?

Some advantages of using this type of trust include: 

  • Avoiding probate - Probate can be a long, complicated process. Your beneficiaries may have a difficult time, especially if there are any hiccups during the probate process. More complex probate situations need to be handled by an attorney, unless your personal representative is rather experienced. 
  • Privacy - Wills are public documents. Trusts are not. Anyone can look at a will that has been submitted to a probate court, but only those who might have an interest in the trust can view the trust document. 
  • Flexibility - An irrevocable trust can have good asset protection features, but in most cases, it is permanent and unchangeable. With a revocable trust, you have the freedom to alter it or revoke it. You can add, remove, or change beneficiaries. You can move property in and out of the trust if you need to. 
  • Quick administration - Since you do not need to wait for a probate court - or any other court - to act, your estate property will be available to your beneficiaries very quickly. 
  • Security - To probate a will, someone must have the original will you executed. This is not true with trusts - even if the original gets lost or destroyed, or your beneficiaries forget where you put it, a copy will suffice. 
  • Continuity of management - It is quite common for a successor trustee to take over managing the trust well before the grantor has passed away. Should you become incapacitated, your successor trustee should be able to start managing the fund immediately and continue managing it after you pass away. If your trust principal is being used for investing or anything of that nature, there will be no interruption in management when you pass away. 

These are just a few benefits of a revocable living trust. 

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