Many people believe the only major legal document they need to have is a will, but that’s not the case at all. There are a number of different legal documents that do different things, and you need to work with a lawyer to draft all of them. They will help protect your interests, your possessions, and even your life. These documents aren’t just necessary for older individuals, either. Accidents can occur at any time, so it’s vital that even those in their twenties have these documents on hand. This list includes the major documents you need and what they do.
This is the one most people know about. Your will only goes into effect after you die, and it outlines what you want done with your possessions. You name your executor or personal representative, and it’s their job to go to court and handle the probate process. They make sure all of the paperwork gets done and that the right people are given the assets you’ve left to them.
Your Will doesn’t have to be that detailed. You can simply name your heirs, your executor, and request that your estate be split evenly between the heirs. On the other hand, you can also be more specific and leave certain assets to specific individuals if you want.
In addition to a will, there are a number of other methods you can use to pass on your assets to your heirs. Trusts, for example, can allow you to place specific conditions on how your assets can be used or provide more oversight of your heirs. You may want to talk to an attorney about these other options and how to create them.
A living will, on the other hand, actually has nothing to do with your death. Instead, it is the document that outlines exactly what medical treatment you want or don’t want if you are unable to communicate your wishes. It does not give anyone else the right to make decisions for you. Instead, your healthcare providers will look at your living will before providing any type of treatment. Many people use a living will to state that they do not want to be on any form of life support.
It’s important to recognize that a Do Not Resuscitate Order, usually called a DNR, is not the same as a living will. A DNR specifically states that you do not want to be resuscitated if you die. It does not prevent lifesaving methods such as feeding tubes or ventilators. If you do not want those options used to prolong your life, you will need to state that in a living will. You may also want to have a DNR, of course in addition to your living will.
Your medical power of attorney, sometimes referred to as your healthcare proxy, is similar to a living will in that it only comes into play when you are unable to communicate or make decisions. However, unlike a living will, this document actually empowered the person you’ve named to make medical decisions for you. You can give them broad, unlimited authority to make all healthcare decisions for you, or you can limit them to specific choices.
Note that your living will supersedes medical power of attorney. This means you can give someone broad medical authority but then place limits on certain treatment options using your living will. Your healthcare providers will always follow your living will first. Your healthcare proxy cannot override it because your living will contains medical choices you have made for yourself.
Medical power of attorney only allows the named person to make decisions that relate to your health. A durable power of attorney, sometimes referred to simply as power of attorney or as financial power of attorney, gives your named representative power over your assets. They can make payments, use your bank account funds as needed, and essentially have full control of your estate. Because of this, you do need to very carefully choose who you name as your representative.
Drafting these Documents
While you may be tempted to use online templates for these documents, you do want to be very careful doing so. These documents may not be fully legal in your state. You want to make certain that any power of attorney or other document you create is fully valid, and that means you will need to have the correct number of signatures on each. Most of these documents also need to be witnessed by a notary and stamped with a valid notary seal.
The team here at Meurer Law Offices can help you create fully valid and legal wills, power of attorney documents, and other legal documents. Contact us today to set up a consultation.