Important: Elder Law Forms Updated by Texas Legislature in 2017

If you have decided that now is the time to finally put your estate plan together or revise an existing one, you should be aware that some recent Texas legislation has changed/added to your options and even updated the forms you are required to use.

The 85th Texas Legislature made important alterations that affect probate, trust, and guardianship law. Most bills came into effect on September 1, 2017 and include changes to the contents and scope of the durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney forms. Read below how it could affect you:

Durable Powers of Attorney

The Real Estate, Probate, and Trust Law section of the Texas State Bar has long been urging the legislature to change the statutes covering durable powers of attorney, and HB 1974 has finally been passed as a result. Changes made by the bill include:

  • Making it mandatory for a third party to accept a power of attorney (subject to certain limitations and exceptions)
  • Defining how and when an agent accepts appointment
  • Entitling the agent to compensation and expense reimbursement unless the power states otherwise
  • Imposing a duty to preserve the principal’s estate plan
  • Allowing the principal to empower the agent to name successor agents
  • Specifying who has the standing to bring an action concerning a power of attorney

There have also been changes to the statutory durable power of attorney form. They include:

  • Inclusion of a warning that if the power of attorney is to be used for home equity loan transactions, it must be signed in a title company or law office
  • Adding the authority to access digital assets
  • Allowing the principal to allow or deny agent compensation
  • Allowing co-agents to be appointed
  • Permitting the principal to allow two co-agents to act jointly or independently

Medical Powers of Attorney

One of the principal changes introduced by HB 995 is the revocation of a spouse’s authority to act as agent if the marriage ends, without impacting the medical power of attorney itself. The disclosure statement is now incorporated into the form itself, so clients no longer have to sign two separate documents. Only one signature is required now, removing the need to keep track of both the disclosure statement and the medical power of attorney. This new form must be used beginning January 1, 2018.

These changes, which have been greeted as improvements over the earlier versions, create the perfect opportunity for you to update or establish your estate plan in order to be sure you and your property are properly taken care of during your lifetime. At Fraser, Wilson & Bryan, P.C. we are here to answer questions, address any concerns, and make your estate planning easy and understandable.  To schedule a consultation and review of your estate planning needs, contact us today.