An Aggie’s Ultimate Guide to Estate Planning

Estate planning attorney Ryan Heath ’14 shares how simple planning today can ensure peace of mind for you and your family tomorrow.

    By Lydia Hill ’21
  • Illustration by Michelle Kondrich
  • May. 14, 2024
    5 min read

Let’s face it, when it comes to your list of important to-dos, planning for the end of your life probably isn’t near the top. If you’ve thought about the topic at all, you probably either shrugged it off as something for down the road or put it in the “I can think of 100 other things I’d rather do” category, right there with going to the dentist or doing taxes.

But ask Ryan Heath ’14, and he’ll tell you that you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the subject of estate planning. As an estate planning attorney, the Aggie has seen the benefits of planning for people of all ages.

“Estate planning is a written set of your wishes in the event you pass away or become incapacitated,” he explained. “It ensures that when you pass away, your property and assets pass to the people you want to receive them, but it also names those you want to make medical and financial decisions for you if something happens during your life, which is important even if you’re just starting your career and don’t have many assets. Families with young children can also name who they want to care for their kids if needed. If you don’t make an estate plan, the state of Texas has one for you, but the people it names may not be the same folks you want making your decisions or inheriting your property.”

We asked Heath for his expertise on how to create the right estate plan for you and your family.

Don’t fear the reaper.

The most important step for estate planning is to start. “No one wants to think about these things, but we’re not planning for something bad to happen,” Heath shared. “It’s like life insurance: We’re setting up something now to make sure you can sleep easy at night knowing that if something out of your control does happen, the right people will make the right decisions for you. These uncomfortable conversations are some of the most important ones to have.”


Though legal software and online will-creating services abound, Heath advises sitting down with an estate planning attorney to personalize your planning. These professionals can discuss your specific needs and recommend the right approach for you while also ensuring your documents contain all the proper legal language.

Document or it didn’t happen.

Your attorney will keep electronic versions of your documents, but you should also give the relevant information to your banks and medical providers and give copies to the people you designated in them. Let loved ones know that you made a will and share where it’s located. Heath also advises saving passwords for your online financial information through a password-saving software or an Excel sheet so that others can access it if there’s an emergency.

Focus on the essentials.

Heath recommends that everyone, no matter their age, have six key documents:

  1. A will, which names someone to manage your estate and designates your beneficiaries.
  2. A financial power of attorney, which names someone to deposit checks, pay bills and handle other financial matters if you are incapacitated.
  3. A medical power of attorney, which names someone to communicate with doctors and make medical decisions for you if you can’t.
  4. A HIPAA authorization, which authorizes family members to speak with doctors and nurses about your medical information, which becomes especially important if you’re hospitalized.
  5. A declaration of guardian, which appoints someone to act as your guardian if you can’t take care of yourself and can also designate a guardian for your children.
  6. A directive to physicians or living will, which specifies whether you wish to remain on life support indefinitely if the situation occurs.

Your attorney can walk you through the documents and help you name the right people in each. If you’re also interested in supporting your favorite charity through your estate plan, they can help you add a simple charitable bequest in your will—just make sure you convey your wishes to the charity!

It’s not one and done.

Once you create your estate plan, don’t just let it collect dust for the next 30 years. Heath recommends re-examining it every three to five years to make sure the people named are still relevant, as well as any time there’s a major change, like a birth, death or divorce. If you need to adjust your plan, don’t just handwrite your change because it could be contested down the road. Instead, an attorney can help you adjust it to ensure that it continues to reflect the wishes that are best for you and your family.

About Ryan Heath '14

Ryan Heath ’14 is a trust and estate attorney with nine years of estate planning experience. After earning his J.D. from Texas A&M University’s School of Law, he worked for law firms in Fort Worth before starting his current firm, TrustPoint Legal, in 2020. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the School of Law, where he teaches a class on trusts and fiduciary responsibilities. In 2023, Fort Worth Magazine named him a Top Attorney in the areas of probate, estate planning and trusts.