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Gather Around Tree to Make Legal Decisions

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 23, 2011 6:01 AM

What better way to spend the holidays than talking about death? Or you know, what would happen if you were on the precipice of death.

It's a bit morbid, but the American Bar Association's Commission on Law & Aging has released a new publication offering a bare bones durable power of attorney. The organization thinks you should take some time this holiday season to talk about the future.

After dinner and presents, of course.

This is actually not a bad idea since the whole family will be gathered around. You'll want everyone to be part of this discussion.

A durable power of attorney, also known as a health care power of attorney, gives a designated individual the legal right to make medical decisions should you become incapacitated. It's like an advance directive, but it covers every conceivable situation.

The ABA's new guide provides a basic form and helps you through the decision-making process. It includes information and questions you should ask when choosing your designated agent. It explains the types of power you can give and withhold.

The form itself also includes a section where you can place limitations on power, explain any specific wishes, and choose when the document comes into effect.

Though you'll only be giving one person the right to make future decisions, it's important to discuss your wishes with all adult family members. Doing so will relieve some of the stress associated with illness and death. It'll also help your designated agent know that he or she is doing the right thing.

So set aside a little time to discuss a durable power of attorney with your family in the coming weeks. You'll be thankful that you did.

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