There are 4 documents that are essential in making sure what you want to happen happens when you age and when you pass. 

These documents are  important to have done while you are alive and in a good mental state, so you can lay out exactly what you want and who you want to execute your wishes. 

Even if you have one of these documents, or all of them, done, the next step is to keep them updated through all of life’s changes. 

So what are these 4 documents?

1. Will

Almost everyone has heard of a Will, also referred to as a last will and testament.

A will is a written legal document that states how you would like your assets to be distributed after your death. You can leave your assets to your spouse, family, friends, charity, or even your pets.

In your will, you can designate a trusted person to act as the executor to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Wills also allow you to name guardians for your minor children. 

While many people make a will when they get married and have children, they rarely updated it throughout their life.

This document needs to be updated with any major life changes, including marriage, divorce, death and retirement.

One important thing to note about a will is that it does not trump beneficiary designations.

Any account that has a beneficiary designation, such as an IRA, is going to bypass the will and go straight to the person designated.

Update your beneficiary designations when you are updating your will to make sure everything is in alignment with your wishes.

2. Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows you to designate an individual to manage your money and make legal decisions on your behalf if you become unable to yourself.

Usually, this person is going to be the adult child you trust the most. Some people make it their spouse. Who this person should be varies by your situation, but it is important to choose someone you trust and you think will be around when you might need this help.

If you become incapcated, the person you choose is able to manage your bank accounts, pay your bills, and file your tax returns. They can also apply for government benefits for you if needed.

If you do not have this document in place, your family may have to go to court and have you declared incompetent before they can have access to any of your accounts.

3. Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is similar to a durable power of attorney but instead of finances they deal with healthcare.

If you have a medical emergency that leaves you unconscious, or you are otherwise unable to make choices about your care, this document lets you designate someone to make medical decisions for you.

In our business, we even help healthcare power of attorneys choose new Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans every Annual Enrollment Period. Being the designated healthcare power of attorney, they can make these healthcare insurance changes for you when needed.

Like any other designation, it is important you choose someone you trust and then communicate your wishes for your healthcare decisions with them.

With both a healthcare power of attorney and a durable power of attorney, it is important to keep these updated. If you want the individuals you designated changed, do not delay in doing this.

4. HIPAA Release

At this point, most people are familiar with HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1966. This act protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent.

This is great most of the time, but what if you become incapitated and your loved ones, or your healthcare power of attorney, needs access to your medical information to make important decisions on your behalf?

This is when a HIPAA release form would come in.

While at most doctors offices, there is a form you fill out and name people who can be given your medical information, this is usually not enough when you become incapaciated. 

You will probably have multiple doctors at multiple locations.

A HIPAA release will grant someone the ability to get information from all these doctors if they need it. This is so important, especially for your health care power of attorney, so they can make informed decisions based on your medical history, not just by guessing.

All 4 of these documents can be completed at the same time with a lawyer. It is important you go to a professional to get these done, as you do not want any mistakes that could prevent your wishes from being properly carried out. 

It is also important you go to a lawyer in your state, as there are differences state to state with how these forms have to be arranged and filed.

If you need it, Cardinal can help you find a lawyer to get these forms in place. Do it sooner rather than later though, as you do not want to find yourself without them.

All 4 of these documents can be completed at the same time with a lawyer. It is important you go to a professional to get these done, as you do not want any mistakes that could prevent your wishes from being properly carried out. 

It is also important you go to a lawyer in your state, as there are differences state to state with how these forms have to be arranged and filed.

If you need it, Cardinal can help you find a lawyer to get these forms in place. Do it sooner rather than later though, as you do not want to find yourself without them

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