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There are a number of legal mechanisms that allow somebody to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so. The two main concerns here are giving somebody the legal right to manage your property and to make medical decisions for you while you are incapacitated.
This area is governed by state laws, which vary from state to state. Transferring power over your property is generally accomplished by a durable power of attorney.
With medical decision-making, things are considerably more complicated. For example, a state may offer the option of a health care power of attorney, a living will, some other form of health care advance directive or proxy (e.g., non-hospital do not resuscitate orders), or a combination of all of the above.
Currently, 45 states and the District of Columbia have laws that authorize both living wills and the appointment of a health care agent. Two states, Alabama and Alaska, have legislation authorizing only living wills. Three states, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York, have legislation authorizing only the appointment of a health care agent.
If you are interested in your state's proxy forms, follow the links provided below. As you look at the forms, keep in mind that some state forms are merely a guideline and may allow you to modify them to suit your individual needs. Other forms may have to be completed as is.
Some files are in rich text format (RTF) that is suitable for use with most word processing programs used in the Windows environment.
Other files are in Adobe portable document format (PDF), which requires the use of Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Adobe Acrobat Reader is available, without charge, at the Adobe website.
For more information, see our discussion of power of attorney issues.
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