A power of attorney is a legal tool that lets you appoint someone to handle your affairs if you become unable to do so yourself. Texas makes establishing power of attorney relatively straightforward with standard forms available for financial matters and healthcare decisions. Meet with a financial advisor to discuss whether a power of attorney should be part of your financial preparations.
Texas Power of Attorney Fundamentals
A power of attorney document grants legal authority to an agent or attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf as the principal. The most common situations involving powers of attorney are when someone becomes seriously ill or disabled and needs help handling their affairs. Powers of attorney are basic parts of most estate plans.
Without a valid power of attorney in place, if you became unable to make decisions your family would have to go to court to seek a guardianship or conservatorship. This process can be costly, time-consuming, divisive and public. In addition, healthcare providers may refuse non-emergency treatment if no one has legal standing to consent on your behalf as a medical power of attorney.
Like other states, Texas has several types of power of attorney, including general, limited, durable, springing and medical powers of attorney. A general power of attorney provides broad authority to handle matters like real estate transactions, taxes, business interests and investments. A limited or special power of attorney confines the scope to specific matters or timeframes.
Durable powers of attorney remain valid if you become incapacitated, while springing ones only take effect if you become disabled or ill. Medical powers of attorney specifically cover healthcare decisions when you can’t communicate your wishes.
Getting a Texas Power of Attorney
You can generate your own legally valid Texas power of attorney without paying a lawyer. Follow these five common steps to create a power of attorney in Texas:
- Decide what powers you want to delegate and choose someone trustworthy as your agent. Give this some thought. Consider talking to an attorney if you are giving broad control over your finances.
- Get the appropriate state form online or from a legal library or office supply store. The Texas Health and Humans Services website includes downloadable statutory durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney forms.
- Make any adjustments that are necessary to the standard language. For instance, if you want a financial durable power of attorney to continue even if you become disabled, you would modify the form to say: “This power of attorney is not affected by subsequent disability or incapacity of the principal.”
- Formally execute the document by signing it before a notary public. You must be a legal adult, over age 18, and of sound mind when signing.
- If you want the agent to handle real estate decisions, you have to file real estate powers of attorney with the counties where any property is located. You don’t have to do this for the other types of power of attorney.
Texas Power of Attorney Limitations
While powers of attorney offer important protections and grant significant powers, they have limitations. Here are five to keep in mind:
- A power of attorney ends when you pass away or if a court names a guardian to handle your affairs due to your incapacity.
- Your agent can’t force you to do anything or override your decisions. Powers of attorney exist to see your wishes are carried out.
- You can revoke a power of attorney any time as long as you are of sound mind. This should be done in writing.
- No one is required to accept a power of attorney if they suspect financial abuse or have other reasonable concerns.
- Special requirements apply if you get divorced and want to retain a former spouse as your agent.
Texas powers of attorney enable trusted relatives or friends to step in when you can’t handle matters yourself. The process of getting a power of attorney in Texas is uncomplicated and inexpensive. Standard forms are readily available for no fee and legal advice is not generally required. However, a power of attorney is a legal document that hands the agent you designate significant power over your affairs. Therefore, it requires careful thought when selecting your agent and tailoring the document.
Estate Planning Tips for Beginners
- Schedule a consultation with a financial advisor to discuss how a power of attorney coordinates with your overall estate plan. SmartAsset’s free tool doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- SmartAsset’s guide to estate planning briefly describes the overall purpose and process of arranging for the disposition of your property and assets after death.
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