May 29, 2024

Q.  All advice articles for seniors that I have read advise us to have a will, durable power of attorney, physician’s directive, and a medical power of attorney. My attorney’s office tells me that I have a “Living Will Advance Health Care Directive” which designates a health care advocate for me and therefore I do not need the Medical Power of Attorney. Is that correct?

A. Texas has two statutory forms, one called a “Directive to Physicians” and the other called a “Medical Power of Attorney.” Most lawyers in Texas routinely prepare both of these forms for their clients.

Some lawyers in Texas will combine the two forms into a single form, usually called “Combination Medical Power of Attorney and Directive to Physicians.”

Importantly, the Texas statute makes it clear that you don’t need to use either statutory form. You can use any form you want. But it is unclear exactly what your “Living Will Advance Health Care Directive” actually is.

Your lawyer is most likely technically correct. The form you signed should work since you can sign any form no matter what it is called or what it contains.

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But if you want to have the two forms that are widely used and recognized in Texas, you should consider replacing the form you signed with the two Texas statutory forms.

Q. Recently, when I picked up a rental car, I noticed a funny chemical smell that I thought was from a recent cleaning, but since COVID had recently numbed my sense of smell, I didn’t request a new car. When I returned the car, they charged me a $400 cleaning fee. They said there was marijuana smoke and ashes in the car. I am 70 years old, and I don’t smoke marijuana. I’ve called and emailed their customer service, to no avail. My credit card company has put a temporary hold on the charge. What other steps can I take?

A. Getting your credit card company to dispute the charge was a good first step. You may have success with that approach.

In the meantime, you should try to get a customer service supervisor on the phone so that you can plead your case. Hopefully, with enough pressure, you can get them to cancel the cleaning fee.

Q. My son recently died with only one asset, a bank account. The bank won’t close the account or tell me the account balance. They say I need to probate his estate. There is probably very little money in the account. He was never married and died without a will. What should I do?

A. You should file a Small Estate Affidavit in the county where your son lived. You can find the form online and prepare it yourself without an attorney. You will need to provide an estimate of the account’s value.
After the judge signs an order approving your affidavit, the bank should release the funds.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Ronald Lipman of the Houston law firm Lipman & Associates is board-certified in estate planning and probate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to: [email protected].


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