One of the wonderful things about doing the work that I do is that it encourages me to make sure that all of my paperwork and documents are in order. It is clear to me that working on end-of-life and estate plan organizing always falls to the bottom of the pile of my things to do. It’s not that I am afraid of doing it or that I don’t want to do it, somehow it never seems to get done. So, it is with great joy that I am able to work with clients who remind me of how important this work is.

A frequent question is: what do I do first? Initially, I thought that people should focus on advance directives, since you should let loved ones and physicians know how to treat you when you are in need of medical care and you are unable to voice your wishes at that time. However, since there are so many variables about how to be treated medically, I decided that, at least for me, the two most important documents are a medical power of attorney (also known as a combined power of attorney/advance directive) and a financial/durable power of attorney. Of course, this will vary for each individual. I recommend that you choose two individuals for each position, one to serve as primary power of attorney and one as a back-up.

The specifics of an advance directive will be covered in another blog/e-mail.


Who should become your medical power of attorney? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this person someone you would trust to carry out your wishes to the best of their ability?
  • Will this person be able to advocate for you and for your wishes with medical establishment, hospitals, physicians, ambulance personnel and emergency room staff?
  • Is this person someone who lives in the area where you live and can this person be reached at all hours of the day and night?
  • Has this person agreed to serve as your medical power of attorney?

Once you have chosen your primary and back-up medical power of attorney, sit down with them and discuss your wishes for when you are unable to speak for yourself. Each of these individuals should understand your wishes and have a copy of your medical power of attorney and advance directive.

Who should become your financial/durable power of attorney?

  • Is this person someone you would trust to perform financial transactions or sign legal documents that you cannot do for one reason or another?
  • Is this person someone who lives in the area where you live and can be reached easily?
  • Has this person agreed to serve as your financial/durable power of attorney?

According to LegalZoom, a financial/durable power of attorney can either become effective as soon as it is properly signed or it can become effective only if you become mentally incapacitated.

As with choosing a medical power of attorney, sit down with your primary and back-up financial/durable powers of attorney to acquaint them with your financial records so that they could easily assume the responsibility when needed.

Nothing contained herein shall be construed as legal advice, nor should you regard such content as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state. All of the content is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified legal professional regarding any issues in which you have an interest.