The three documents that every adult should have, and should keep updated are:
1. Power of Attorney. A power of attorney allows someone to stand in for you in case you need them to sign paperwork for you. Legally, they can only sign things for your benefit and cannot spend your money as their own, but you need to completely trust the person you give this authority to (and you can revoke it if you need it). There are two types of powers of attorney:
A. A General and Durable Power of Attorney. This allows the person to sign for you now and also states that you want this to continue even past your incapacity; and
B. A Springing Power of Attorney. This goes into affect once a doctor has determined that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
In Kentucky, which is the only State I can speak to for legal advice, once you get to the point that a doctor has stated that you cannot make decisions for yourself, a person would have to apply the State’s Disability Court to be appointed your Guardian.
2. A Living Will, also called a Health Care Surrogate. This provides details about what level of care you want once you are past the point that the doctors think you will get better. For instance, do you want pain medication? Things like that. You will list a person to follow your wishes, but the document tells the doctors exactly what you want. Without this document, someone would have to go to Court and try and tell the Judge what they think you wanted. In this document you can also specify if you want to donate your organs and/or body.
3. A Will. This will direct how you want your property distributed once you have died.