There are a number of legal documents that will help assure that healthcare providers, banks, and the courts will treat you, your family, and your property the way you want them to, when for some reason you become unable to make decisions on your own behalf.
- Durable Powers of Attorney. When you recognize that you may not always be able to make decisions for yourself, you may want to sign a "power of attorney." A power of attorney allows you to appoint another person – it does not need to be a lawyer – to make important decisions for you. It is called "durable" because it will still be effective if you later become disabled. MCL 700.5501.
- A durable power of attorney for finances lets the person that you choose make decisions about your property and income. For instance, you might ask one of your children to help you manage your finances if you start to forget to pay your bills.
- A durable power of attorney-medical lets the person that you choose make decisions about your physical and mental health care and treatment. Such a person is called your "patient advocate." MCL 700.5506. For instance, if you were in a car accident and unconscious, your patient advocate could discuss your condition with the emergency room staff, and consent to your treatment there.
- Do Not Resuscitate Orders. When you are admitted to a hospital or nursing home, the staff will give you the option to sign a "do not resuscitate" or "DNR" order. This directs the healthcare provider not to resuscitate you if your heart and breathing stop.
On the other hand, if you prefer that the healthcare provider make every effort to keep you alive in this situation, your designation of patient advocate (see above) allows you to express that preference.
- Wills. If you die without a will or "intestate," Michigan law identifies how your property will be distributed: to your surviving spouse, your children, other family members, and – in the absence of any survivors – to the State itself. MCL 700.2101-.2105.
You may want to consider signing a will if you want to direct how your property is handled when you die. For instance, if you have a favorite charity, you may want to direct that some of your property go to that charity. The Michigan Statutory Will allows you to make up to two cash gifts to a charity or an individual.
If you have a large amount of property or want to exercise more control over how it is distributed, you should consult with an attorney to help you write a will that is tailored to fit your situation properly.