Important Legal Documents

Whether you are just getting married, having your first child, building wealth, facing a health crisis, or just thinking about the future, one thing is for certain:  You are planning something important.  In that planning, EVERYONE, regardless of financial status, needs three simple legal documents to protect them and the one's they love….

Financial Power of Attorney

This document appoints an 'Agent' to access all of your financial accounts and real property for your benefit when you are unable to manage your assets yourself.  It is much more useful than simply allowing the Agent access to a single bank account; a general financial power of attorney gives your Agent complete access to your entire estate.   That may sound a little scary — but you do not authorize them to use the document until you cannot manage your financial affairs yourself.  It is important for an attorney to review the functions of this document with you.

If your present financial POA document was executed before 2001, you should consider doing a new one, as this statute was revised significantly (twice) since that time, and many banks and financial institutions are expecting to see these newer versions.

A Will or Trust

While the Agent appointed under your Power of Attorney for Finances document manages your assets while living, a Will is a document that appoints an Executor — someone who will manage your estate for you after you die.  An Executor's job is to gather all of your assets together, pay the taxes owed, and distribute your assets to your heirs.  Sometimes assets are also put into a trust for the benefit of minor children or disabled persons.  

Everyone over the age of 18 who owns any type of property or cash asset should consider making a Will.  It is especially important for the elderly — but it is also a vital planning tool for young families

Medical Power of Attorney
 
This document appoints an 'Agent' to represent you to medical personnel — and to speak FOR you when you cannot speak for yourself.  It also grants "HIPAA" rights to access your medical records, grant permission to speak to your doctors on your behalf) and the document may also give your Agent power to admit you to various medical facilities.  

The person you select as your Agent should be thoroughly familiar with your wishes — particularly for end-of-life decision making.  A Medical POA may also contain something we call a "living will" — which is your personal statement about heroic measures.   

In many cases, setting up all three documents takes one consultation and costs are very reasonable.

“The medical POA in Pennsylvania was changed significantly in 2007 following the landmark Florida “Terry Schivo” persistent-vegetative-state case. The current PA statute gives more rights to persons in both terminal and end-stage conditions. It is probably the most important document you will create, as you are giving life-and-death powers to your agent listed on this document, who will speak (medically) FOR you when you are unable to speak for yourself. In addition, you should have a thorough, complete discussion with your agent—to ensure that they KNOW what your wishes are, BEFORE they have to act on your behalf!