Fatal Accident in Dallas County Reminds us of the Need for Estate Planning

estate planning On Labor Day this year, a 17-year-old was involved in a fatal car accident in Dallas County, after speeding through an intersection at 87 miles per hour.  She has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following the death of the couple whose vehicle she struck.  The couple’s teenaged daughter survived the wreck.  This horrific accident reminds us of the need for estate planning, as the unexpected can, and does, happen.

Tragedy strikes family on Labor Day

The teen, Natalie Goskie, was going 87 miles per hour on a stretch of road where the speed limit was only 40.  When she blew through the intersection of Hampton Road and Ledbetter Drive, she struck the Lopez family’s vehicle, instantly killing the wife.  The husband died at the hospital shortly after.  Their teenage daughter, who was also a passenger, was critically injured but survived.  The couple also had three other children.

Recognizing the purposes of estate planning

Having an estate plan is important for you and your family.  It allows you to decide now how you want your property distributed after your death.  It also allows you to prepare for the possibility of incapacity, when your family will need the power to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so.  Dallas estate planning can involve several different estate planning tools depending on your goals.

Planning for the possibility of incapacity

While you may not think it could ever happen to you, incapacity can be an unexpected consequence of an illness or accident.  Incapacity can be physical, mental or both.  It can be permanent or only temporary.  Regardless of the nature of the incapacity, if you have an incapacity plan in place, it will be a lot less stressful on your family.  In the legal sense, the term “incapacity” means the ability to understand the nature and consequences of legal proceedings.  When it comes to estate planning, it usually refers to the inability to make your own decisions or manager your own affairs.  Without a plan, you will likely be appointed a conservator or guardian.

The benefits of advance medical directives in incapacity planning

Advance Medical Directives provide a way for you to convey to someone else the authority to make decisions related your health care, whenever you become incapable of making or communicating those decisions for yourself.  An Advance Medical Directive can be executed so that it is triggered upon your incapacity, whether temporary or permanent.  The language of the directive will also provide your instructions regarding your treatment.  Your appointed agent will be required to follow your instructions and make decisions on your behalf that are in line with your wishes.

Using a financial power of attorney in incapacity planning

Decisions regarding medical treatment are not the only types of issues that you may need assistance with, in the face of incapacity.  You may also need someone to handle your financial matters.  In order to delegate this type of authority, you should create a Financial Power of Attorney.  Similar to an Advance Medical Directive, a Financial Power of Attorney appoints an agent who will have the authority to handle your finances.

Estate planning helps you prepare your family for your death

The second goal of estate planning is to address how your estate should be handled upon your death.  The primary estate planning instrument for this purpose is the Last Will and Testament.  The will serves as your written instructions regarding how you want your estate to be distributed, including who you want to receive your property and other assets.  With a will you can also nominate a guardian for your minor children.  Your will can be used to create a testamentary trust, which places certain assets into a trust for the advantage of certain beneficiaries.  The primary disadvantage of a will, though, is that your estate must go through the probate process before it can be distributed.

If the idea of creating an estate plan seems overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be.  You can start with a basic initial plan and supplement it whenever necessary.  This is a very good idea for single individuals and young families.  As your needs and the needs of your family dynamic change, you can always modify your plan.

If you have questions regarding the need for estate planning, please contact The Vermillion Law Firm, LLC for a consultation either online or by calling us toll free at (888) 567-5745.