Heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” So true, but no matter how hard you get hit, your chances of getting through that punch will be much better if you are prepared. In fact, the Champ made that quote just before he lost to Evander Holyfield, obviously a man with a plan.
NOW IS THE TIME to catch up on the legal items that have been waiting for your attention. Recent events have brought into focus the need to consider or revisit some of life’s important, details and we are realizing that our plans might not be covering all the bases. Consider this:
POWER OF ATTORNEY – Illness, incapacity, or physical unavailability (travel, trapped in a cave) can prevent you from executing important transactions and some that seem mundane, until they can’t be executed. Every adult should have another competent family member, friend or professional who can transact on their behalf. A power of attorney can be conditioned on certain events such as illness, or it can be “durable” meaning that it remains in place from the time of creation. (Many elderly or chronically ill persons have them in place. A power of attorney can also be limited to, or from, certain transactions such as entering into contracts up to a certain amount, conveying real estate, etc. Powers of attorney can be created for a single transaction, or designed to cover any needs which might arise where you are not available.
LIVING WILL / HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVE- This is basically a power of attorney for medical reasons, with certain legally required language for medical situations, covering specific wishes regarding your care or end of life treatment in the event that you are not able to communicate for yourself. Though the thought can be “off putting” everyone is at risk of sudden accident or medical incident causing physical or mental incapacity. Now is the time to think about what you would want to say.
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT- Regardless of your economic position, when you pass on, you will have not only assets, but liabilities and transactions that need to be completed on behalf of your “estate.” The will not only provides your preferred wishes for such situations, it designates a person or persons whom you wish to handle these matters (executor). Of course, larger estates involve fairly financial and tax plans, but a simple will conveying your basic wishes in the inevitable event of … you know .. should be in place for everyone, even your college student.
AND SPEAKING OF STUDENTS – They may be your kids, but college and high school students age 18 or over are legal adults and therefore automatically protected by a number of privacy statutes which could prevent disclosure of information to mom and dad. If your child is in situation where they need your help, you want to be sure that there are no obstacles that prevent you from access to information. In addition to a power of attorney, will and living will, you should be sure to have HIPAA releases allowing medical providers to release all medical records to you. I have heard stories of parents calling hospitals in faraway states or countries to inquire as to the status of their child, only to be told “we can’t give that information out over the phone.” Putting aside the legality of such obstacles, my first advice here is to have an immediate reply which is “I’ll fax or email you a HIPAA release and power of attorney right now.”