Knowledge Base

Emergency Information

People to Notify

list the names and phone numbers of people who you want
immediately notified should you die or become ill, incapacitated or otherwise unavailable as a result of an emergency.
Name, Relationship, When to Contact (M), Agreed upon Arrangements (M)

Care of Property

This is where you should record emergency information about
your property. Again, limit yourself to matters that are likely to need immediate attention. (Non-emergency information should go in other categories.) Who is best able to watch and care for your property? Does the neighbor or friend have a spare key? What arrangements have you made? Does the garbage have to be put by the curb to get picked up, and if so, on what day? Are there any hidden tricks to how things work in your house?
Are there burglar alarms in the house? The mere existence of an alarm is something which should be known right away. Record that information in the space provided for Special instructions. (See also Category 18, Burglar Alarms.)
Item Needing Care, Location of Property (M), What’s to be done (M), Contact Person (P/L), Normal Fee, Special Instructions

Living Will

A living will is not a will at all, but a document stating your
decision to refuse certain medical treatment, particularly artificial life-support, under certain conditions. Sometimes called a “Directive to Physicians” or “Advanced Directive,” a living will is presented directly to a doctor, hospital or other medical provider. It becomes part of a patient’s official medical record, legally binding the physician or hospital to follow the patient’s wishes.
Almost all states permit living wills, although the laws vary from state to state. Some of the variables are:
Some states require you to use their own forms and will not recognize a living will prepared on a different form.
Some states permit a living will to name another person (a proxy) who can make medical decisions if you are incapacitated. This type of living will is similar to a durable power of attorney for health care.
Unlike a durable power of attorney, in some states a living will is binding only if signed after a patient has been diagnosed with a terminal condition. These provisions do not protect against an accident or sudden onset of an incapacitating terminal conditiona good reason to prepare a durable power of attorney for health care as well as a living will.
In some states, a living will expires periodically and must be signed and witnessed againtypically, every five years.
A possible problem with living wills is that some are not specific enough for a doctor to figure out which medical treatments are prohibited and which are not. To take care of this, it is best to name the treatments you know you do not want
artificial feeding, mechanical breathing machine, for example. It is also best to name a proxy to decide on other treatments not specifically mentioned in the living will.
It is often an excellent precaution to have both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. You can prepare both forms yourself. If you do prepare both, make sure they are consistent. Your attorney-in-fact for health care should be the same person as the proxy named in your living will, and the language used to describe medical treatment you do not want should be the same in both documents.
Location of Document (M), Physician aware of your wishes (P/L), People aware of your wishes (M)

Child Care

If you don’t live near family members, it is a good idea to arrange
in advance with someone to temporarily take care of your children in the event anything should happen to you. This category of provides a place to record the name, day and evening phone numbers and address of that person, and to list whatever arrangements you have made. (If there is more than one such caretaker, make a second “child care” entry.)
In the space provided on the screen for “Special instructions,” list only information that is necessary in an emergency. Be sure to list medications your child must have or foods she cannot eat. For example, if your child is diabetic or has severe allergic reactions to eating certain foods, include this information here.
Contact Person (P/L), Agreed upon Arrangements (M), Financial Arrangements (M), Special Instructions (M)

Address Book

Use the “Address Book” subcategory let others know where you
keep your address book, in case the addresses in the People to Notify category are out of date, and you haven’t had time to update them.
Physical Description of book, Location of address book, Address book software (PIM), Location of Manuals, Location of hard disk

Durable Power of Attorney

A “durable” power of attorney remains valid even if

you become incapacitated and are unable to make financial or medical decisions. Creating a durable power of attorney is a good way to make sure that someone of your choice will manage your affairs and make crucial decisions about your comfort, health and even your life if you become incapacitated.

Some durable powers of attorney go into effect as soon as you sign them. But if you do not want to share authority while you are still competent to make decisions yourself, you can use a “springing” durable power of attorney, which has no effect unless and until you become legally incompetent. At that point, it “springs” into use. You can include a stipulation which states that your physician must certify in writing that you are incompetent before the durable power of attorney can become effective.

If you become incapable of managing your affairs and haven’t signed a durable power of attorney, a court proceeding is usually held to appoint someone to make your financial and health decisions. Depending on the state, these proceedings have names such as custodianship, guardianship, conservatorship or curatorship. No matter what the name, these court proceedings are commonly time-consuming, expensive and emotionally upsetting. By writing a durable power of attorney, you get to determine who will make those decisions, and to some extent, how they will be made, and you avoid these costly court proceedings.

It is good practice to draw up two separate durable powers of attorney: one to authorize someone to make your medical decisions (a durable power of attorney for health care); and one to authorize someone to handle your financial affairs (a durable power of attorney for financial management).

Durable power of attorney for financial management

A durable power of attorney for financial management provides peace of mind that money and property will be managed by a trusted person with no need for a court-appointed guardian or conservator.

These powers of attorney may be tailored to meet practical needsauthorizing an attorney-in-fact to pay bills, make bank deposits, handle insurance and other important paperwork, sell a home or other property. You may insert directions and limitations about how your finances may be handled.

Durable power of attorney for health care

A durable power of attorney for health care authorizes someone to make decisions about your medical treatment. You can:

direct that life support systems be used;

direct that life support systems not be used after diagnosis of a fatal, incurable or irreversible condition;

leave the decision about using life support to your appointed attorney-in-fact; or

leave decisions about any other medical treatment to your appointed attorney-in-fact.

Currently, not all states have laws that officially authorize durable powers of attorney for medical care. But the fact that a state does not specifically authorize it does not necessarily mean that a durable power of attorney would not be honored. In fact, there is a strong legal trend to recognize them everywhere, because a durable power of attorney is often the only and best evidence a doctor or court has regarding a person’s wishes for their own care.

Among those states that specifically authorize them, the rules vary as to the forms required, when the power can go into effect and whether an attorney-in-fact can refuse medical treatment or merely consent to it. These limits make it advisable that you also prepare a living will for added protection. (See Living Wills, below.)

If no durable power of attorney for health care has been written, health care providers might accept the “inherent” authority of family members, especially a spouse, to make decisions for someone who is incapacitated. But no such authority is recognized for an unrelated person who lives with the incapacitated individual. And for serious, life-threatening decisions, it’s likely that doctors, hospitals and nursing homes will insist on documentation of the patient’s wishes or a court proceeding.

Note on Living Trusts: If you have transferred property to probate-avoidance living trust, you can arrange to have your property managed by the person named as “successor trustee” if you become incapacitated.

Date Signed, Location of Document, Describe areas it covers, Name of Attorney in fact, Relationship to you, Witness’ Name, Witness’ name

Child's Guardian

In this subcategory, list the name and address of the person you

have named in your will to be the personal guardian of your minor children should you and the children’s other parent die. Not only should you give serious thought to who is the best person to care for your children, it’s essential that you talk with this person about whether he is willing to take on that responsibility.

Financial vs. personal guardians

If in your will you named one person to raise your child (personal guardian) and a different person to administer property left to your child (financial guardian).

Child’s Name, Personal Guardian, “Named in will?”, Financial Guardian, “Named in will?”, “Trustee or Custodian to manage my child’s property in named in will or living trust?”, Agreed upon arrangements, Location of will

Power of Attorney

At some point in your life, you may want a trusted friend or

relative to have legal authority to act on your behalf. Perhaps you’ll need someone to handle your business and financial matters while you’re away on vacation. Or maybe you want to appoint someone to make important medical and financial decisions for you if you’re seriously injured or incapacitated.

You can plan for these situations by preparing two simple legal documents: a “power of attorney” and a “living will.”

Date signed, Location of document, Name of attorney in fact, Relationship to you, Describe what areas it covers,

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a document that you (the principal) create to authorize another adult (the attorney-in-fact) to act for you. In the document, you specify who will have this responsibility and spell out any directions or restrictions on that person’s authority.

Although the person who acts for you is called an “attorney-in-fact,” he or she doesn’t have to be a lawyer; any competent adult can fill this role.

A power of attorney is typically used to give another person authority to handle your financial or business affairs for a limited purpose or time.

It is useful to delegate decision making authority when you plan to be out of town and cannot manage your day-to-day responsibilities. For example, if you will be overseas at the time a piece of real estate must be sold, you can use a power of attorney to appoint some trusted person to sign the necessary closing documents for you. A power of attorney can also be used to delegate decision making for business matters only in those areas requiring professional expertise that you do not possess.

You can create a power of attorney for a definite or indefinite period of time. It can be for specific or very broad decision making. It can be effective immediately or at some future time. As long you remain competent to make decisions, you may change or end the power of attorney at any time.

Unless the power of attorney document states otherwise, it is valid only while you are competent. If you become “incapacitated”that is, have a medical condition which renders you incapable of decision makingthe power of attorney becomes void. (However, a “durable” power of attorney remains valid even if the principal becomes incompetentsee Durable power of attorney for health care, below.)

Animal Care

Your animals will also need immediate attention if you aren’t on

the spot to provide for them. Pets simply can’t wait for friends, family and neighbors to debate and decide who is to take responsibility. They must have food, water, exercise and shelter now.

You probably know a lot about your animals’ needs that no one else knows. What kind of food do they like? What can’t (or won’t) they eat? What kind of exercise do they need? Is it all right to let the bird or gerbil out of the cage? Where are the leashes, grooming tools or tack? Where are the medical records and licenses? Who is your veterinarian? What medications do the animals needand what tricks do you use to get them to swallow them? What kind of daily care do they need? If a dog, horse or cat must be boarded in a kennel or stable, which one do you use? Is there someone you don’t want to care for your animals?

If possible, make arrangements in advance with whomever you want to take care of your pets. This will greatly reduce the risk that an animal will be overlooked in the confusion that can surround an illness or death. Think about both short-term and long-term arrangements. Perhaps a friend is willing to care for your animals for a short time, but just can’t take on the responsibility for permanent care. For example, you can’t expect someone who has never ridden to board a horse indefinitely. If so, perhaps this person will accept authority to find another home for the animal.

Animal’s Name, Breed/Species, Identifying Characteristics, Person agreeing to care, Instructions, Veterinarian, Locations of meds and other items

Providing For Your Animals After You Die

Animals are considered property and can be left by a will, but a will isn’t the best place to make arrangements for animal care. A will leaves an animal to someone unconditionally; the recipient can do whatever he wants with the animal. In some states, you can set up a non-binding (honorary) trust for an animal. The trust designates someone (a trustee) to take money or other property to use for the benefit of the animal. Because an animal can’t sue, the trust is not enforceable in a court if the trustee fails in his duty.

Therefore, it’s often better to rely on personal agreements with someone you trust rather than to try to set up a rigid scheme in a will or trust. So make your wishes known (preferably in writing, as well as orally) to the person before your death.

Animal Euthanasia

A will provision that directs the euthanasia of an animal at the owner’s death will probably not be carried out if someone objects to the probate court that is supervising administration of the estate. Humane societies have successfully challenged such provisions and won the right to find the animal a home.

Related Categories

  1. Real Estate: Information on the ownership of your home (title documents, price, mortgage, improvements, etc.).
  2. Insurance: Details medical and life insurance coverage.
  3. People/Contracts: Baby sitters, day-care centers and those who take care of your animals, home, garden, pool, etc.
  4. What You Owe: Monthly bills, loans, credit cards, rent and utilities.
  5. Burglar Alarms: How to operate the alarm system on your house, car or other vehicle.
  6. Medical Information: Names and addresses of family doctors, dentists and other medical providers, and your medical history.
  7. Your Family: Medical history of your children and family.
  8. Death Plans: Information on your wishes in the event of your death.
  9. Estate Matters/Will: Location of your will, living trust and letter of instruction.
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