Something unexpected could happen at any time so you need to do the work now to be prepared. In some cases, that means making preparations for when you aren’t able to make decisions due to death or impairment. Here, let’s review the legal documents everyone should have and the effort required to get them created with a lawyer’s help.
1) Last will and testament
The last will and testament determines who is being left what to in the case of death. This includes the definition of estate (what you own), and material relationships such as spouse. Typically also represented are provisions for care elections for any minor children, and designations of who will represent the estate and execute it’s wishes.
2) Durable power of attorney
The durable power of attorney elects a person or persons to act on an individual’s behalf should they not be able to do so themselves. It determines the elected attorney or attorneys, under what circumstances they should be able to use the power, and what powers they have (banking, rents, securities, personal care, making gifts, compensating them for their time, etc).
3) Living will declaration
The living will declaration captures an individuals wishes for a circumstance where their life could be artificially prolonged. It can specify what levels of procedures can be authorized in what circumstances, the verification of impairment necessary, and even the degree to which pain mitigating medications can be used.
4) Health care proxy
The health care proxy captures an individual’s desired agent who can act on their behalf with regard to health care decisions were they unable. It identifies the appointed individual, under what circumstances they receive that power, and specifies the powers given (access to records, ability to make medical decisions, etc).
What’s required to get them setup?
- Find a lawyer near you who can help create these documents (Google can be your friend here)
- Contact the lawyer and tell them what you want to do. They’ll have some questions for you and will either ask them, or send a questionnaire for you to fill out with the answers at your leisure.
- Answer the questions, which are the designations and inputs to creating your documents. Send the answers to the lawyer.
- Meet with the lawyer to review the documents, and sign them and get them notarized.
For a ‘simple’ set of documents the whole process should cost only a few hundred dollar ~$200. This is a price point that most can afford. It’s worth it for the peace of mind that things will be handled as you wish when something unanticipated comes up and prevents you from being able to make these decisions on your own behalf.