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Legal Documents that Give You Peace of Mind

Do you have a stack of important documents that tell your loved one's what to do if you die or are incapacitated? If not, I suggest that you should.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of a will – a legal document that leaves instructions on what to do with your belongings when you die. More importantly, it can also outline your wishes for guardianship of your children. Without a will, the courts may make these important decisions on your behalf.

Maybe even more important than a will is a group of documents I refer to as Living Documents. These documents are used at times when things may be really bad, but you're still alive. Below is a layman's description of a few of them:

Medical Power of Attorney is used to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make your own decisions.

Directive to Physicians instructs physicians on what action to take if you are suffering from a terminal or irreversible condition. You may choose:

(1) to discontinue all treatments other than those needed to keep you comfortable;


(2) to be kept alive using available life-sustaining treatment.

HIPAA Release authorizes your physician or health care provider to disclose your health information and medical records to your designee(s). You should complete one of these for yourself, and have your adult children do the same.

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is used to appoint someone to handle your personal and financial affairs other than your health care decisions. Imagine giving someone the authority to pay your bills or make deposits to your bank account if you are incapacitated. The person you appoint should be someone you know and trust.

I am not an attorney and consequently will not be drafting any of the above documents for you. Your local family law attorney would be happy to review your situation and address some or all of the documents described above. Another less expensive option is an online service that has “fill in the blank” versions of some of these documents. One such website is

Get a will and these living documents created. Make sure family and any friends named in them know your wishes, and where the documents are kept.


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