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Legal Issues of Caregiving

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    Besides taking care of your loved one's physical needs, you may also need to help him make decisions about money. With some planning the two of you can make the process run smoothly.

    Your first step is to make sure you've got the legal documents you need to let you act in your loved one's best interests. An attorney who specializes in elder law can give you advice that's tailored to your situation.

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    Power of attorney. This is a document that lets your loved one give you the authority you to make legal decisions when he's no longer capable of making them on his own.

    There is no standard power of attorney. Each one is geared toward a person's specific situation. Make sure you understand all the terms of this document because it spells out exactly what authority you do and don't have.

    Durable power of attorney for health care. You may alsohear this called a "health care proxy."It lets you make all decisions about your loved one's health care. For example, you'll be allowed to choose doctors, medical treatments, and make end-of-life decisions. But this document only goes into effect if your loved one is no longer able to make the decisions for himself.

    Living will. This lets your loved one say in advance what kind of medical care he would like to get -- and also what kind of life-support procedures he doesn't want. It's used if your loved one becomes terminally ill and is unable to make his wishes known. A terminal illness means your loved one's doctor believes there's no chance of recovery.

    Living wills can also be used if your loved one becomes permanently unconscious. Two doctors need to state that he has no reasonable chance of regaining consciousness or the ability to make decisions. Laws on living wills vary from state to state.

    Living trust. This lets you create a trust and appoint someone to carefully invest and manage money after your loved one is no longer able to do this on his own.

    Will: This document lists the people who will inherit your loved one's money and property. It also names the "executor" of the will -- the person who makes sure his estate is distributed correctly.

    Guardian/conservator. If you'relegally appointed your loved one's "guardian" or "conservator," you're given the authority to make decisions over things like where he lives, what kind of care and medical treatment he should get, and also the right to manage his financial affairs. An attorney can give you advice about when this might be needed.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on February 22, 2015
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