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Legal Incapacity Documents Defined

Most clients know that they need a Power of Attorney in the event that they become incapacitated, but many do not know what other documents they need.  Still, others are not aware that these documents are only effective during their lifetimes– when you die, these documents do as well.  Every person needs to have the following documents in place:

  • Last Will and Testament: A legal document that provides instructions for how to distribute assets after death.  A Will may also (1) state the guardian for minor children and/or (2) appoint an executor to administer the estate in accordance with the Testator’s wishes.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows you to appoint a family member or friend to serve as an agent for you to manage your finances if you are no longer able to manage them yourself.  This document is be necessary in the event you become either temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Without this document (or a Guardian of Self) in place, should you become incapacitated, the Court will order a guardianship for you.  However, a court-ordered guardianship is both time-consuming and costly.
  • Guardianship: A legal document that appoints a family member or friend to care for you in the event you become physically or mentally incapable of caring for yourself.
  • Medical Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows you to appoint a family member or friend to make medical decisions for you in the event you become unconscious or mentally incapable of making those decisions on your own.
  • HIPAA Authorization: HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA lays out rules and places limits on the persons who are able to review your medical records or to receive your health information. Doctors and medical staff who violate HIPAA regulations are subject to civil financial penalties or imprisonment in extreme cases. Having a HIPAA Authorization in place allows you to name a family member or friend to have access to your medical information so that your health care provider or insurance company may share medical information with persons named on the authorization.
  • Medical Directive: A legal document, also known as the living will, which directs physicians to administer, withhold, or withdraw life-sustaining treatments in the event of a terminal or irreversible condition.

Yes–there is an App for that, too.  Check out the MyDirectives app for your iPhone and you can upload these documents to your smartphone for instant access.


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