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Understanding the law for living wills and powers of attorney

A frequent concern for Philadelphia residents has to do with wills, how they are created, and what the laws are regarding its various aspects. A commonly confusing part of that is a living will, sometimes referred to as an advance health care directive. Understanding the rules and criteria for every eventuality is key. This applies also to health care powers of attorney. In order to have these types of documents be legally valid, there are certain factors that are required to be in place.

The person making the document must be of sound mind and be at least 18 years of age. The document is required to be dated and signed. It is necessary for there to be two witnesses to the signing of the document with the witnesses being at least 18 years old. With a living will, it is recommended but not required that it be notarized. The maker can alter the document at any time he or she chooses to do so. If that is the plan, others should be kept abreast of the changes.

When creating a new document, the same rules apply as when the original was formulated. The family of the maker should receive a copy. In addition, copies should be provided to the doctor, the attorney and, if it is preferred, a clergy member. In the event that the maker becomes incapacitated, a copy of the document should be accessible for others.

These types of documents are important for those who become incapacitated as they will have their desires in writing. Without one, the decisions will be left to the spouse or the family. A discussion about living wills can often be had with an attorney who has experience in estate planning.

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