NAELA Names Top 4 Legal Documents Everyone Must Have

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Planning ahead is key to stress-free retirement and aging.

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Taking the time to plan now can help eliminate many of the challenges that people face later in life... recently published an article on the importance of writing wills and planning for the future (Feb. 20, 2014). A will is just one of the important legal documents to have ready. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a professional association of attorneys serving seniors, people with disabilities, and their families, compiled a list of the most important legal documents that every American should have:

1. Power of Attorney (POA): Grants authority to act for another person in legal matters, executed prior to the incapacity. A properly drafted power of attorney may preclude the need for court action, saving substantial legal expense and invasion of privacy in the event of incapacity.

2. Health Care Proxy: Also known as a “health care surrogate” or “durable power of attorney,” allows the patient to appoint an agent to make health care decisions.

3. Living Will/Advance Directive: Helps clarify your health care desires to family members and medical professionals when you are unable to communicate them due to a serious illness or injury. Laws about these critical documents vary from state to state.

4. Last Will and Testament: Statement of what you would like done with your possessions upon your death.

“NAELA member attorneys are committed to representing the needs of people as they age, people with special needs, and their families. NAELA attorneys can help prepare these important legal documents, designed to address possible long-term care needs, issues that arise in the event of incapacity, as well as asset distribution upon death,” said NAELA President Howard S. Krooks, CELA, CAP. “Taking the time to plan now can help eliminate many of the challenges that people face later in life or when confronted by an unexpected illness or accident. Preparation really can lead to peace of mind."

To receive a free NAELA brochure: “Questions and Answers When Looking for an Elder and Special Needs Law Attorney,” contact Communications Associate Abby Matienzo by email at amatienzo(at)naela(dot)org or phone at 703-942-5711 #230.

Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) are attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and individuals of all ages with disabilities. Established in 1987, NAELA is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations, and others. The mission of NAELA is to establish NAELA members as the premier providers of legal advocacy, guidance, and services to enhance the lives of people with special needs and people as they age. NAELA currently has members across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit

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Abby Matienzo, Communications Associate
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