Planning for the future can be a difficult topic for many people. After all, who wants to contemplate their own incapacity or inability to make decisions for themselves, either financially or medically?
The state of Texas recognizes legal documents that can ensure your desires are carried out even if you are not able to see them through yourself.
A durable power of attorney for financial matters allows you to appoint someone to oversee your investments and manage your estate when you are no longer able to do so. A medical power of attorney will grant your appointed agent the power to carry out your emergency medical and end-of-life decisions should you become incapacitated.
If you’re in San Antonio, Texas, or nearby in Boerne or New Braunfels, contact James P. Peterson, Attorney at Law, to help you set up your needed powers of attorney to provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind should the unforeseen yet inevitable suddenly occur.
A power of attorney legally bestows upon another person the right to act on your behalf. This person is known as the agent, while you are known as the principal. The agent you name will generally be someone you trust, often a family member. The agent does not have to be an attorney. You may name an alternate agent.
In general, there are five types of powers of attorney in Texas:
General Power of Attorney: This gives the agent broad authority to act on your behalf, but should you become incapacitated in any way, that authority ends.
Limited or Special Power of Attorney: The principal grants the agent authority over a specific matter for a limited period of time.
Springing Power of Attorney: This grants the agent authority only when the principal becomes disabled or incapacitated, or when certain conditions are met.
Durable Power of Attorney: This is a general power of attorney that does not expire upon incapacitation. This allows another person to act on your behalf to pay bills and manage your accounts and assets.
Medical Power of Attorney: This allows your agent to make medical decisions when you are incapacitated and can no longer make medical decisions for yourself.
To execute a power of attorney, the principal must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. The document must also be notarized at the time of its signing. To make a power of attorney durable, the document must contain this sentence: "This power of attorney is not affected by subsequent disability or incapacity of the principal."
Any type of power of attorney can be revoked by the principal, even a durable power of attorney. If a spouse is named as the agent and the couple divorces or the marriage is annulled or declared void, the agent’s authority terminates. A court order to appoint a guardian for the incapacitated principal will also terminate the agent’s authority.
A general durable power of attorney is a forward-looking tool to have someone in place who can handle your assets and finances should you become incapable of doing so. Remember, they have a fiduciary duty to care for your finances according to your wishes. Still, you should always pick someone you trust completely.
A medical power of attorney allows your agent to carry out your wishes for medical treatment should you become incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. Essentially, this document allows you to make your decisions known in advance regarding where you would like your health care to take place, which physicians you would like caring for you, which treatments you will or will not accept, whether you wish to donate organs should you pass away, and even how you envision your funeral. The document also gives the agent the power to enforce your wishes in court.
The Texas Health and Safety Code Section 166.151 through 166.166 covers health care powers of attorney. Section 166.152(c) clearly states: “...treatment may not be given or withheld from the principal if the principal objects regardless..."
If you become incompetent and you do not have a power of attorney, your relatives must seek guardianship to manage your affairs. You do not want your loved ones to be forced to seek guardianship. Guardianship is expensive to establish and stressful to maintain. Becoming incapacitated without having a power of attorney designation in place can cause tremendous stress and potential conflicts among your loved ones. These instruments are vital to make sure you, your family and estate, and you yourself are cared for when you lack the ability to act on your own. Everyone hopes that never happens, but planning for unforeseen events is crucial.
James P. Peterson, Attorney at Law, handles all issues relating to estate planning, including powers of attorney. Attorney James Peterson offers free consultations for individuals in or around the areas of San Antonio, Boerne, or New Braunfels, Texas. Reach out to the firm today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your needs should any unexpected life events occur.