A will isn’t all you need!

Medical Power of Attorney.  This is a form that allows a person to elect someone else to handle health care decisions on their behalf only if they are unable to do so themselves because of some type of incapacitation.  Incapacitation includes problems such as severe psychological and mental disabilities, coma, and vegetative state.

Except to the extent you state otherwise, this document gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make any and all health care decisions for you in accordance with your wishes, including your religious and moral beliefs, when you can no longer make them for yourself.  This form is only for health care decisions.

Medical Powers of Attorney are one of the most common ways to avoid full guardianships, which are expensive and time-consuming, when a person becomes incapacitated.  Every adult should have one.

Living Will.  This form, like the Medical Power of Attorney, helps you communicate your wishes about medical treatment when you are unable to make your wishes known because of illness or injury.  The Living Will differs from the Medical Power of Attorney in that it is permissive, and people do not choose an agent to act on their behalf if one has been appointed in a Medical Power of Attorney.  The Medical Power of Attorney agent is the agent under the Living Will too.

The Living Will also applies in more limited circumstances.  It specifically allows you to make requests in the event you are suffering from a terminal condition from which you are expected to die within six months.  It also allows you to make requests when you are suffering from an irreversible condition prohibiting you from caring for yourself and are expected to die without life-sustaining treatment.  In addition, you may make your desires known with regard to a variety of other matters such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, antibiotics, antiviral medications, comfort care (palliative care), organ donation, tissue donation, and body donation.  The Living Will should go hand in hand with the Medical Power of Attorney.

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney.  A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is a document giving the person you appoint the authority to act for you in a broad range of non-medical situations.  It is called durable because it lasts even after you become incapacitated.  Your agent’s actions are legally binding on you, just as if you had taken the action yourself.  A general power of attorney grants the agent the right to act on your behalf in any and all matters, while a limited power of attorney gives the agent the power to act on behalf of the principal in specific matters or events.  The Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability or when the principal can’t be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions.

Transaction powers you may grant or withhold include those relating to personal and family maintenance, banking, business operations, real property, personal property, insurance, retirement plans, your estate, trusts, lawsuits, government benefits, taxes, digital assets, stocks, and bonds.  You may grant powers having to do with other transactions as well.  Additionally, in defining your agent’s roles under your Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, you may give special instructions limiting or extending the powers granted.  The Statutory Durable Power of Attorney is one of the most important and versatile personal planning tools available.  No one should be without it.

These are the absolute essentials, along with your Will, of course.  Please contact our office for legal advice and assistance.