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Everyday Cheapskate: The 5 Legal Documents Every Adult Must Have

Mary Hunt on

Recently, a letter from my dear reader Jenny reminded me that everyone needs to make sure they have certain legal documents in place and updated -- even me. My husband and I have our important papers in our safe, but they may be out of date. They are definitely "out of state," due to our relocation to Colorado.

Thankfully, we now have an option to do this ourselves -- legally and properly -- for a whole lot less than it cost us decades ago.

Dear Mary: I'm 50, married and have two adult children. Our financial life is not complicated. I do not have a will and know that I should. Can I put faith in a simple will done by one of the large online companies, or is it in my family's best interest that I hire a lawyer? I have read your work for many years and appreciate your advice. Thank you. -- Jenny

Jenny: Thank you for the trust you put in me. That is something I value highly. My quick answer is that you and your husband need individual wills, plus four other legal documents as well. I have a resource to recommend to you, which will help you do this yourself -- a reputable legal help organization I believe you can trust without reservation.

Will this preclude the need to hire an attorney? It could, but I cannot advise you on that, because every situation is different. What I can tell you is that you can do this yourself and be well protected once all of your information and desires are written down in proper legal order. You can always take that to an attorney, if or when you find it necessary.

There are five legal documents every adult must have -- each one signed, dated, notarized as necessary and kept in a safe place that someone else knows about and can retrieve on a moment's notice.

 

NO. 1: WILL

If you have minor children, your will is where you name guardians for those children. Your will also names your executor -- the person who will oversee and protect your interests if your estate needs to go to probate. Your will handles the assets you hold in your name alone.

NO. 2: HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY

If you are unable to make medical decisions yourself, you need to name someone else to make those decisions on your behalf. I highly recommend that you name up to five people in successive order to make sure there is someone there who is authorized to make these decisions for you.

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