By Helen Hartman, CRPC®

Through my years of meeting with many clients and prospects, I have found people are not always familiar with the legal documents necessary to organize their affairs and finances. Legal documents can be adjusted as life changes but it is important to have them composed. No matter an individual’s age, it is wise to have the following documents:

  1. Financial Power of Attorney- A Durable Power of Attorney grants a designated individual to act on one’s behalf in all affairs identified by the document other than health issues. A POA allows the named individual to transact on financial accounts, pay bills, sell a property, open accounts in one’s name, etc… This document must be composed and witnessed when you are of sound mind to be utilized when you are unable or unwilling to complete the tasks listed in the document. *** The powers stop upon death of the document grantor.
  2. Health Care Proxy- Health Care Proxy, or Health Care Power of Attorney, is a legal document written to empower a named individual to make medical and healthcare decisions for a document grantor. As in a financial POA, the designated individual can be changed and has the powers as defined in the document.
  3. Living Will/ Advance Directive- A living will is a document outlining one’s desires in advanced healthcare needs (ie desire for use of a respirator, or receiving a stomach tube to stay alive, etc). This document is used to guide family members and loved ones in times when the grantor needs to have important medical decisions made and they are unable to make themselves. The living will guide’s loved ones and family members how to make medical decisions.
  4. Last Will and Testament- Wills are documents used to guide the probate court in distributing assets upon one’s death. Many people are unaware the last will and testament is the directive order for probate court and all assets defined within must “go through probate”.

The four documents defined above are very important in financial planning. Having them in place can help protect one’s financial picture as well as assist others in how to assist them during times of trauma and death. Finding a good lawyer in your area is necessary to write your documents and organize that portion of your financial plan.