The situation we find ourselves is unprecedented and challenging in many ways. For many, times of uncertainty and crisis make us realize that we have not adequately planned for a health or financial emergency, or death. And while that realization may cause us additional worry or anxiety, the good news is that it is not too late to make a plan and get the legal documents you need to protect yourself and your family.
Our health is currently at the forefront of our thoughts. The main legal documents for handling health-related concerns are the Advance Directive for Healthcare and HIPAA Authorization. An Advance Directive for Healthcare allows you to appoint an agent as your healthcare power of attorney and directs your agent to make healthcare decisions and communicate those decisions to your healthcare providers. It also allows you to express your end of life choices if you are terminally ill or in a permanent state of unconsciousness and you are likely to die in a short period of time. A HIPAA Authorization allows your loved ones to get access to your medical records from your healthcare providers.
For financial, business, and day-to-day matters, a General Durable Power of Attorney is the document needed to appoint an agent to act on your behalf to manage your affairs while you are alive but unable to handle them yourself. Durable means that it is effective even if you are incapacitated. The document can be written to be effective immediately or when you are determined by your doctor to be incapable of handling your own affairs.
The Last Will and Testament (“will”) is the document where you appoint an executor to manage your affairs (also known as your estate) after your death. It also allows you to appoint a guardian for minor children. You can specify who gets your real and personal property upon your death, and you can disinherit people who would otherwise be entitled to your property under state law.
There are other documents that can be used to transfer assets upon death, such as a trust, but the documents listed here are the basic documents that one should have in place. If you do not have these essential documents, please contact an estate planning attorney because do-it-yourself documents may not be current or legally enforceable.