Getting your legal affairs in order is always a good idea. Making decisions ahead of time will lessen the stress during times of illness, incapacity or death. Make an appointment with an elder law and estate planning attorney and find out what documents you will need.
A will is the written instrument by which a person makes disposition of his estate to go into effect after his death. A will is important because if you do not have a will, the state will decide how your estate is distributed.
If you already have a will, make sure it is up-to-date and stored in a secure and accessible place. A will stored in a safe-deposit box in a deceased person's name is not available at their death.
Regular and Durable Powers of Attorney
A regular Power of Attorney is the document by which one person authorizes another person to act on his behalf. The power of attorney can be broad enough to handle all legal and financial matters or can be limited to one or more specific activities. Those activities can be signing checks for mortgage and utility payments on only one checking account.
Giving someone power of attorney does not take away the person's ability to conduct his or her own affairs and is useful if your loved one wants to handle some of his or her legal and financial affairs. A regular power of attorney is revoked if the person becomes incapacitated.
A Durable Power of Attorney continues even if the person becomes incapacitated and will enable the caregiver or other individual with power of attorney to continue to take care of affairs on behalf of the loved one.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is the document that allows you to name a person to act in your behalf to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is different from a regular Durable Power of Attorney that you use to give someone authority over your financial matters. Unlike a Living Will it is not limited to situations in which you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
A Living Will is a document that allows you to establish, in advance, the type of medical care you would want to receive if you were to become permanently unconscious, or if you were to become terminally ill and unable to tell your doctor or family what kind of life-sustaining treatments you want to receive.
Regardless of your condition, if you were able to speak and tell your doctor what you want to do about life-prolonging treatments, then the Living Will would not be used. Your doctor would just talk directly to you about your wishes.
This is information only, and is not legal advice. Contact an attorney for legal advice. Never sign any legal document without consulting an attorney first.