The following is provided for informational purposes only and is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.
Many people understand the importance of having a Will, but not everyone is aware that there are other important documents that every adult should have in place. Among these documents are a Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release, Durable Power of Attorney and a Declaration of Guardianship.
A living will is the document that allows you to designate what you want should you become incapacitated. In other words, what are your wishes regarding any life-sustaining medical treatments in the event you are unable to communicate those wishes on your own?
A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions if you cannot. The Medical Power of Attorney allows your agent to consent to medical treatment if you are unconscious or otherwise cannot make decisions on your own.
The HIPAA release is where you designate the person(s) to whom your doctor may discuss your medical condition.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone to act on your behalf. A Durable Power of Attorney might be used where your spouse or other agent has authority to sign papers and conduct business in your name. It can be made effective immediately, or upon your incapacity.
A Declaration of Guardianship specifies who you want to take care of you, should the need arise.
Remember that in addition to your Will, these documents are the bare minimum estate planning documents you should have in place. Death and Incapacitation do not discriminate, so regardless of one’s age, wealth or marital status, no one is exempt from needing these documents.