Don't Leave Your Family Guessing


Life does not go as planned – everyone knows this. God forbid, an accident should leave you unconscious and in the intensive care unit. But, if this happens, real and consequential issues get raised at this crucial time. Questions like:

  • Does your family know your wishes for medical treatments?
  • Who makes the medical decisions?
  • Do you want to live on in a vegetative state?
  • Can your relatives and talk to your doctors?

Though we all hope our families and friends are never faced with this situation, we can ensure they do not have to answer these difficult questions – at least not blindly. Comprehensive estate planning addresses life issues, not only death issues.

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is more than just having a last will and testament. Not to demean the importance of having a Texas Will – which is important, but a Will only addresses the distribution of some assets. And, if you do not have a Will, the State of Texas has a default Will for you that generally distributes your assets to your closest family members.

Estate planning does not deal solely with death it very much pertains to life and living. Estate planning attorneys work with clients to ensure the client’s desires are met while living. The law generally has default settings for emergency situations. For example, a spouse would make medical decisions in the event of an emergency.

The real question remains: why would you want to add stress your loved ones in an already contentious moment? Estate planning relieves stress on your next of kin and works to achieve the goals you want. And although your loved ones likely want what is best for you, they could guess wrong.

Example of a life issue, that could have been resolved by estate planning documents:

More than one relative can get an update on your condition from your doctor.

  1. Law:
    • In Texas without a HIPAA release, the person your acting medical power of attorney has the ability to discuss your condition with your doctor and not others.
  2. Problem:
    • Dave loves his wife, Cindy. Dave also loves his sister Suzie. However, Suzie and Cindy have hated each other since the Thanksgiving 2011 fiasco – don’t ask.
      Dave is ill and cannot communicate. Cindy, Dave’s wife gets updates on Dave’s condition from his doctors. Cindy, still being petty, will not give Suzie an update on Dave’s condition.
      Dave certainly would want his sister Suzie to know about his condition, but Suzie cannot talk to his doctors.
  3. Solution:
    • Dave should have had a HIPAA authorization for his sister to talk to his doctors.

This also applies to siblings or relatives who have are helping take care of an elderly parent. The siblings can designate one person to make medical decisions (Medical Power of Attorney), but they all can call in and check on how their parent is doing with a HIPAA authorization.

This is just one illustration of many life issues that an estate planning can help resolve. Overall, a comprehensive estate plan can save you time, money, and effort. Questions? Contact me, your Sugar Land estate planning attorney.