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We often have clients tell us that they have all of their paperwork in order, then proceed to pull out a one-page Power of Attorney and a one-page Will.

I will be the first to say that the length of a document does not determine the validity or the value. However, a Power of Attorney is an important document. It gives another person the power to stand in your place, to become your “agent in fact” for legal and financial decision-making. The Power of Attorney document needs to be strong enough to include specifically-required language such as the power to transfer real estate and the power to create or amend trusts.

On the other hand, merely having a Power of Attorney and a Will fails to provide for medical decision-making. A very common misconception is the idea that a General Power of Attorney also covers medical decision-making. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case. A Medical Power of Attorney is a separate document that grants another person the decision-making capacity as well as the right to review medical records and speak with medical professionals on your behalf. A Medical Power of Attorney includes specific HIPAA-compliant language that will protect doctors and medical staff.

We generally recommend including a Living Will to your plan as well. In fact, we believe that a Living Will is so important that it is included in all of our estate plan packages! A living will is your declaration of your last wishes if you are in an imminent terminal condition. Having a living will protects loved ones from having to make those hard decisions during times of extreme stress. By making those decisions, your family members will not have to.

Every estate plan should have a Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, and a Last Will & Testament. If you are not sure that your documents accomplish your goals, bring them in to us. We are happy to review them with you for no charge.