Getting Your Affairs in Order
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There are many different types of legal documents that can help you plan how your affairs will be handled in the future. Many of these documents have names that sound alike, so make sure you are getting the documents you want. Also, State laws do vary, so find out about the rules, requirements, and forms used in your State.
Wills and trusts let you name the person you want your money and property to go to after you die.
Advance directives let you make arrangements for your care if you become sick. There are two ways to do this:
- A living will gives you a say in your health care if you are too sick to make your wishes known. In a living will, you can state what kind of care you do or don’t want. This can make it easier for family members to make tough health care decisions for you.
- A durable power of attorney for health care lets you name the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Make sure the person you name is willing to make those decisions for you.
For legal matters, there are two ways to give someone you trust the power to act in your place:
A durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to act on your behalf for any legal task. It stays in place if you become unable to make your own decisions.
A general power of attorney also lets you give someone else the authority to act on your behalf, but this power will end if you are unable to make your own decisions.
Steps for Getting Your Affairs in Order
Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You could set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or just list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add.
Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help.
Give consent in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form.