There are several legal documents that you can sign to help prepare for future illness and injury. If you become incapacitated in the future without these documents in place, your loved ones may be forced to go through court legal proceedings to have you declared incompetent and to have a judge select a legal guardian for you.
Signing these documents now will help your family and friends know your wishes and can make accessing your financial accounts and medical records easier for them.
- Health Care Power of Attorney or Advance Health Care Directive documents can designate trusted people to act on your behalf if during your lifetime, you are in a condition where you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The person or persons you designate to act on your behalf in a Health Care Power of Attorney or Advance Health Care Directive are usually called "agents." Your agent can be authorized to make medical decisions for you, discuss treatments with your physicians, and deal with your health insurance company.
- General Durable Power of Attorney documents can designate trusted people to act on your behalf if during your lifetime, you are in a condition where you are unable to sign or transact for yourself. The person or persons you designate to act on your behalf in a power of attorney are usually called "agents." You can authorize your agent to pay your bills, manage your financial accounts, handle your business responsibilities, and even sell your assets if necessary.
- Living Wills are written statements that detail how you want life-sustaining medical procedures to be administered in the case that you are not able to make those decisions yourself. You can sign a living will instructing your physician to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures under certain circumstances. Many people gain comfort in signing a living will because they do not want to lose their personal dignity at the end of life when nothing more can be done to cure them.
- HIPAA Authorizations can be signed if you would like to authorize someone to discuss your health care, health insurance, treatments, etc. with a health care provider or insurer. If you do not sign a HIPAA authorization, privacy regulations prohibit your health care providers from sharing information regarding your protected health information (PHI) with others.