What are Essential Documents?
These are the very important documents that should be in place laying out the plans for how you want medical and estate matters handled in the event of your incapacitation. For caregivers, these documents are extremely important for detailing the specifics for how things function as your aging loved one’s health declines.
All of these essential documents are basically designed to accomplish the following in case of death or incapacity:
a. Someone you selected can access your financial information and do necessary business on your behalf.
b. Someone you selected will be actively involved in your care, being both fully authorized and informed.
c. This someone will have the power and knowledge to decide all matters as you would if you were able.
d. All post-death matters will be handled as you had directed, including all receipts by beneficiaries.
When you are in a spot where these documents are needed, you're too late to revise to a new document and you're stuck with what you've got (or don't got). Therefore, caregivers should seriously consider either getting these documents in place or take a look at what is already there and assess the need to revise. Doing this now, before it’s too late is hugely beneficial to you as a caregiver, and can be a great source of peace of mind.
We are providing a list of essential documents, in no particular order, to help you consider if you have everything you need. There are no other names for the documents listed; in fact, some of them don't actually have names. But working with an attorney will ensure you have everything that makes sense for your situation.
Although some get combined, that's usually a mistake. For example, you can combine most any of them, but in actual use, it's far better to be able to show just the authorization in a form that is immediately recognizable. This makes it clear to anyone looking for specific powers.
(In no particular order)
1. Advance Health-care Directive
2. Living Will
3. Health-care Power of Attorney
4. HIPAA Authorization
5. Durable Power of Attorney
6. Representative Payee for SS payments (retirement payments)
7. Agreement with my family about Driving
9. Living Trust
10. Special Needs Trust
11. Irrevocable Trust
12. Life Insurance beneficiary designation
13. Harvard Medical School Letter
14. Five Wishes
15. Physician's Order
16. Final Letter (Family Letter)
17. Institutional Letter of Authority/co-signer form.
18. Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
19. Durable Do Not Resuscitate Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (DDNR/POST)
20. Durable Do Not Resuscitate for Emergency Medical Services (DDNR/EMS)
21. DDNR jewelry (bracelets and necklaces)
22. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
Establishing Essential Documents:
There can be bad results when these documents aren’t in place. Important decisions may be delayed or not made at all. Care can be delayed. In some situations, a loved one’s life can be on the line.
While you can find forms for many of these documents online, there is a high risk involved in using these and skipping the consultation and expertise of a trusted attorney.
a. The forms created may not be accepted due to something you didn't know.
b. You may mistakenly direct something you don't want.
c. You may miss something important to you.
An attorney will know the practical application of this paperwork. They'll know the legal effects of use and can set up the right decisions for you at the drafting stage. The fees will be slight when measured against the potential costs of not having any forms or having forms that don't work as you want. This is key in avoiding very bad outcomes that can directly affect the rest of your life and/or your legacy.
If you don’t have an attorney, or one you’ve worked with previously doesn’t handle this type of work, simply contact us at no cost, and we’ll help you find and vet an available and competent lawyer.