The Big Five
I recommend that virtually every person of age 18 or older have what I call, “The Big Five”:
1) The Will;
2) The Health Care Proxy;
3) The Advance Directive;
4) The HIPAA Release;
and, 5) The Power of Attorney.
The Will names who will receive the money, real estate and all other assets upon the death of the person signing the Will. The Will names who will be in charge of the distribution. The Will names the guardian(s) of children under age 18 in the event of the loss of both parents. Without a Will, the assets can go to strangers. With a Will, no one needs to travel to probate court.
The Health Care Proxy “springs alive” if a physician states in the medical records that the patient is unable to decide or communicate the patient’s health care decisions. In that situation, the named agent makes the health care decisions on behalf of the patient. Without a Proxy, a Guardianship proceeding must be filed in probate court.
The Advance Directive directs in advance what type of health care the person signing the Directive desires in the event the patient is terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state without a reasonable expectation of recovery. Without this document, the Proxy may not know the patient’s choice, a very terrible situation for all concerned.
The HIPAA Release permits the Health Care Proxy to have access to the patient’s medical records. Without this document, care providers tell the Proxy to go to probate court for permission.
The Power of Attorney allows the named agent to sign checks, contracts, deeds and any other legal document on behalf of the person signing the Power of Attorney. Without this document, a Conservatorship proceeding must be filed in probate court.
The Big Five is a gift to family and friends because court involvement is greatly minimized or avoided entirely.