I advise my friends and family to have the following 7 legal documents for all adults in the State of Texas :
1. Last Will and Testament (even if you have a Living Trust document prepared you still need a "pour over" will that puts everything not already in your trust into your trust.)
Very simply, a will is a legal document that directs how your property will be distributed after you die. In your will, you designate a person you trust to manage the distribution of your assets when you pass. You can also create a trust in your will for the benefit of your spouse or children. In addition, you can name a guardian for minor children.
If you do not have a will, the State of Texas legislature -- through a process called intestacy -- has laws to determine how your estate is distributed. (The State does not take your assets but it tells the Judge who will inherit your property.) Moreover, if you have not appointed a guardian for your minor children in your will, that decision may be left to a court.
Probate in the State of Texas with a valid will is cheap and easy. Without a will then the judge will make all the decisions regarding your estate and it adds a lot of time and money to the probate process.
2. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney
A statutory durable power of attorney allows you to name a person you trust as your agent, to manage your finances if you are no longer capable of managing them yourself. For example, if you become temporarily or permanently disabled.
Again, if you do not have this in place, the courts could take charge of this and appoint a guardian to make the decisions on your behalf.
This is a very powerful legal document so you need to be careful who you select to manage your finances.
3. Medical or Health Care Power of Attorney
A medical or health care power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person to make medical decisions for you in case you become unconscious or mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself. You need this no matter what age you are since you could be in an automobile accident and be unable to communicate with doctors.
4. Living Will or Directive to Physicians
A living will -- also called a “directive to physicians” or “health care directive” -- allows you to instruct your physicians not to use artificial methods to prolong your life in the event you are diagnosed with a condition that is terminal or irreversible.
5. HIPAA Authorization
A Federal Law called "HIPAA" -- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act -- sets strict rules on who can look at your medical records or receive your medical / health information. With a HIPAA authorization, you can designate a person to receive your medical information from your health care providers or health insurance company.
6. Designation of future Guardian
If you become disabled and are unable to take care of yourself, you can list someone that you trust to take care of your physical and/or financial needs. You can also list anyone that you do not want a court to appoint as a potential guardian.
7. Designate someone to take care of your funeral arrangements
You can designate someone you trust to take care of all of your final arrangements. I recommend this even if you have a pre-paid funeral package. It prevents confusion during a difficult time in your family's life.