Top Three Legal Documents Every Person Should Have.

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Whether you are 25 or 75, there are a few things in life that are for sure – death and taxes. Taxes we handle on a yearly basis, but how often do you plan for the other sure thing? Not very often, I would imagine. But there are a few legal documents that every single adult should have, as they make sure that your wishes are met and it makes life easier for those people who have to deal with the outcome of whatever happened to you. Let’s take a look at the three most important legal documents you should have:


A will dictates how you want the assets of your estate distributed following your death. Only own a few things? Well, who do you want to receive those few things? Even the most well-behaved families can sometimes get in fights following a death of a relative, so it is best to have your distribution wishes written down in a legal document. And the more “stuff” that you have, the more important the will can become. There are sites on the internet and software that can help you make a will, but for something this important, I would contact an attorney and have the will drawn up.

Power of Attorney

The power of attorney gives legal authorization to another person you have designated to act on your behalf. These documents can be for general purposes or for specific purposes; it is up to you, the “principal”, to decide what they are for. They can be for business purposes, banking, access to safe deposit boxes, real estate transaction, etc.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

This could quite possibly be the most important document that you could have, as it assigns another person to be able to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Let’s be honest – if you are already dead, who cares who gets your Nintendo Wii? But if you are incapacitated but still alive, you want to make sure that your medical wishes are met, right? Well that is what this document does. If you want to be kept off life support, you need this document. If you do not want to be revived, or you want to donate organs, you need this document. Your wishes, whatever they may be, can be listed in the document and it gives an “Agent” (of your choice) the right to enforce/make these choices for you when you cannot. Copies of this document should be given to your attorney, your doctor and your appointed Agent. My doctor told me about this form for years and I always ignored him – no more though.

You can download free Power of Attorney forms at PublicLegal, along with a bunch of other forms. If you are unsure about what you are filling out and signing, I highly recommend having a consultation with an attorney to make sure you are doing the right thing. But no matter what you do, make 2008 the year that you get prepared with the legal documents you hope you never need, at least not for a long time.

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Comments (15)

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  1. An informal general intent letter expressing your desires for other aspects in your life would be useful as well. It can cover more mandate things as well – how to feed your dog, etc.

  2. david says:

    It would be as well, thanks Raymond!

  3. Randall says:

    Maybe not at the top 3 but #4 should be a Living Will. It describes how you want to be treated if you are incapacitated (usually permanently). Should the medical team try ‘extreme measures’ to keep you alive if you are considered by the doctor to be either terminally brain-dead (from an accident) or if you’re older, whether to use every possible way to keep you alive, even if it keeps you in pain.

    For younger people, it isn’t so much an issue, but as you get older, it becomes a question of how do you want to pass on.

  4. david says:

    Very true, Randall – Thanks for the comment!

  5. Laura says:

    I have a durable power of attorney, but it hasn’t been updated (I got married and moved). Thanks for the reminder.

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