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Important Legal Documents to Protect Your Family

Legal Documents to Protect Your Family

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, threatens not only the health and safety of all people who have the ability to become pregnant, but also other rulings giving rights protected by the right to privacy. This includes the rulings in Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, which protect the basic human rights central to the lives of many of our clients, particularly our LGBTQIA+ clients. 

The Geller Law Group supports marriage equality and the right to privacy. We support the LGBTQIA+ community, which explicitly includes the trans community, without reservation or caveat. We know that many of you have questions and are afraid of what this ruling and the next can mean for you and your family. You have the ability and right to make sure your family is protected to the extent possible. While we hope that our voices will matter and can influence change, at times of uncertainty, it can be helpful to focus on the things we can control.

During consults, we often tell clients it’s great to have a will that is clear about how you want to distribute assets, and having a trust can be beneficial to avoid probate and simplify things for your family when you die. But, we also strongly recommend everyone have an advance directive (also called a medical directive or healthcare directive) and power of attorney in place.

An advance directive (AD) is a document that appoints someone to make medical decisions for you and provides guidance to that person regarding certain healthcare decisions you would like them to make should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself. It also provides HIPAA authorization for the person you appoint to allow them to speak to medical professionals about your care.

A power of attorney document (POA) appoints someone to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf during your lifetime. We often describe this position as allowing someone to “stand in your shoes” and assist you in a wide variety of matters. It can be something as simple as accessing your accounts to pay your bills or even signing your tax form. You have flexibility in allowing or limiting any grants of power under this document.

Nearly everyone has some sort of illness or emergency that will necessitate the use of an AD or POA in their lives. If you do not have these documents, there can be uncertainty regarding who will make decisions on your behalf or who, if anyone, even has the authority to do so. While there are certain rights given to a spouse in these situations, not everyone is married and even then, there can be limitations in the absence of proper grants of power. Additionally, what sorts of decisions you may like regarding your care may not be known without clear documentation.

When serving under either of these documents, the person you appoint must always act in your best interest. While you should pick someone you trust, there is comfort in knowing they will be held to a certain standard while making decisions. There is no legal requirement for any sort of a relationship between you and your agent in either of these documents, so any change in legal relationship status that may result from a Supreme Court decision will not invalidate the documents in the future. Should there be a ruling that in some way affects or brings into question the validity of same-sex marriages, the ability for your agent to act under either the AD or POA will not change.

You hope to never need these documents, but should a time come you do, having an AD and POA in place can prevent uncertainty, fighting amongst family and friends, and the potential need for a court-appointed guardian, which can be both an expensive and lengthy process (and does not help when someone needs to act quickly on your behalf!). It grants you the ability to have a say in the decisions regarding your health and quality of life.

While it may seem like so much is out of your control right now, our hope is that having an advance directive and power of attorney in place may bring you some peace of mind. 

Should you have questions or concerns on how to legally protect your family, please contact us to make an appointment and mention this post.

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