Getting Your Affairs in Order

What would happen if you were found unconscious and sent to the hospital. You had no family, had a will but never given anyone power of attorney over your finances or health care. As a result- no one could manage your bills, retrieve your personal items or have authority to move you somewhere where you could receive care if needed.

These types of “crisis” happen all of the time. It is important to plan for the future BEFORE you become ill. Things can change in a moments notice, these 4 key end-of-life documents will be sure that you are prepared.

  1. Living will – This document lets you provide written guidance on what kind of treatment you would want—or wouldn’t  want—during a terminal illness.
  2. Durable power of attorney – This document, which generally goes into effect immediately, gives someone the authority to manage your finances should you become incapacitated. This form can be ordered from an online legal site, however, the better route is to use an estate-planning lawyer. The lawyer can make sure the form conforms to state law and is properly executed. Some banks and brokerage firms won’t honor a power of attorney unless certain conditions are met, while others have their own forms. Make sure you complete the required paperwork and keep power of attorney documents in a safe but accessible place that a designated person can get to.
  3. Health care proxy –  With this one, you have the right to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf should you not be able to speak for yourself. It’s also referred to as a power of attorney for health care. The power can include everything from consent to surgery or authorizing life support. Designating someone as your health care proxy should take some thought. Be sure that this person would honor your wishes and/or preferences when it comes to medical decisions. As with the power of attorney, the health care proxy should be easily accessible in an emergency situation.
  4. Medical-information release. This form gives your doctors permission to share medical records with a person who you can list to receive it. Because there isn’t a standardized medical release form, your primary-care physician should be able to provide one to you. The form should be updated annually and kept in a safe place.