4 Legal Documents everyone should have and why they are so important.
In July of 2010, my mom was visiting my daughter and grandson. While holding my grandson, my mom stepped on a toy and fell, hitting her head on a hardwood floor. She instinctively protected my grandson and not herself. The baby was fine, she was fine (we thought). My mom needed to use the car that day so they were going to take the baby to the babysitters and my daughter to work. Right in the middle of the ride to the sitters, my mom started to slur her words and throw up. My daughter got her to the hospital and to make a very long story shorter she had emergency brain surgery. She ended up in ICU for over 2 weeks.
So you may ask where was I? I was 3000 miles away on the other side of the country at home when it first happened. After a whirlwind of things I had to take care of I was with my mom within a day and a half. Now we get to the part where the legal documents come in. Let me say my situation was and will be different than anyone else. You may need to speak with a lawyer or go to court or obtain additional documents. I am not an expert by any means. I am simply telling you of my experience. The following legal documents are the very least you AND your loved ones need to have. These documents are not just for the elderly, they are for every adult.
The 4 Legal Documents
Power of Attorney (POA)
A POA is a document that you assign a trusted person, usually a family member, to act on your behalf in legal matters in the event of incapacity.
Health Care Proxy
Also known as “durable power of attorney” or “health care surrogate”. With this document, you assign a person to make decisions for your health.
Living Will/Advance Directive
With this document, you get to say exactly how you want your health care to be handled in the case you are not able to say. The kind of treatment you want or don’t want to receive and when. You can be very detailed or make a general statement.
Last Will and Testament
Without a Will, your property is going divided up by the rules of your state. With a Will, you can name the guardian of you minor children, any gifts you may want to be given to charities and of course how you wish your assets to be distributed.
First, there is no question about who is making the decisions. Second, you save money, your family would not have to hire a lawyer and go to court to have someone assigned to act on your behalf in a time of crisis. Last, YOU get to say how you want things to go if the worst happens to you.
The end of my story(sort of)…the only legal document my mom had was a Will. I went to court in 2 different states to be granted her guardian. I had to go by “gut feeling” on a lot of decisions about her treatment and other things too numerous to mention. My family had my back the entire way. I also had wonderful Geriatric Care Managers. (see post on What is a GCM ).
Some things that helped me through it all is my mom and I did have some discussions on how she wanted things at the end of her life. I am her only child(this has been a curse and blessing all my life). Am I sure I did EVERYTHING the way she would have wanted it? NO. Did I do the very best I could?Absolutely! Am I sure if my mother had all 4 of these documents it would have been easier on our family….again absolutely positive!
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