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Important Legal Documents Every Rhode Island Resident Should Have

Tragic accidents, illness, death and dying – not exactly the topics that any of us care to discuss around the family table. Without doubt, it’s uncomfortable to think about a time when we may be unable to care for ourselves, make sound decisions, or even die prematurely. In addition, it’s difficult to broach these subjects with people whom we love, as these are the people that we generally protect and shield from unnecessary anxiety.  The reality is that with a small amount of advance planning, you will actually spare loved ones aggravation, stress and unnecessary hassle if you become incapacitated in any way.

The following list is extracted from a press release issued last year by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys which outlines the top four documents that should be in place:

  1. Power of Attorney (POA): Grants authority to act for another person in legal matters, executed prior to the incapacity. A properly drafted power of attorney may preclude the need for court action, saving substantial legal expense and invasion of privacy in the event of incapacity.
  2. Health Care Proxy: Also known as a “health care surrogate” or “durable power of attorney,” allows the patient to appoint an agent to make health care decisions
  3. Living Will/Advance Directive: Helps clarify your health care desires to family members and medical professionals when you are unable to communicate with them due to a serious illness or injury
  4. Last Will and Testament: Statement of what you would like done with your possessions upon your death

An additional step to consider, especially if you have a family with children under the age of 18 is to establish a legal Trust. This is an important step to take and can help to keep your family out of the courtroom and other public legal situations, allowing the settlement of your estate to take place faster and without debate. When a trust is established, you spell out exactly what you want to have happen with your assets and who you want to handle these jobs for you, realizing that only the court can decide custody, etc.

The above documents are especially important if you are considering divorce, or have a custody agreement in place. Speak with your lawyer to discuss how illness and death will affect your estate and the future lives of your loved ones. The discussion may not be comfortable, but once these documents are in place, you will be leaving your loved ones with an immeasurable gift.