What legal documents do you need to have and why.

I get asked all the time what legal documents are needed by friends who have elderly parents and children recently over the age of 18. People understand generally the purpose of having a will but there seems to be a lot of confusion about exactly what other documents are needed. I thought I would go through the typical legal documents in addition to wills and their purpose.

1. Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA): The purpose of this document is to give someone control over your general everyday personal matters relating to your finances and property. This document must be executed while a person is competent to understand what they are signing. If they subsequently become incapacitated, the document remains legally binding.

2. Durable Power of Attorney with H.I.P.P.A. Language (DPOA with HIPPA): This document serves the same function of the DPOA except that it adds language that allows your attorney (the person you are granting the power to) to have access to your medical records and health information. This document does not give you the right to make medical decisions for the person. It only allows you access to their medical records.

Both of these documents are typically executed between husbands and wives, between elderly parents and their caregiver children, and between parents and their 18+ year old children particularly ones who are going off to college.

3. Health Care Proxy (HCP): This documents gives you the legal right to make healthcare decisions for someone. This differs from the DPOA with HIPPA document because that document only allows you access to medical records. A HCP allows you to make the decisions in a medical crisis when that person is unable to make their own decisions. It’s a good idea to have both a HCP and a DPOA with HIPPA to cover all of your bases.

4. Living Will: A living will is a document generally executed in conjunction with the above documents. A living will simply states that you do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means or through extraordinary measures.

It’s generally a good idea to consult with an attorney who can ask the right questions to determine exactly what documents are needed in your particular situation.

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