A power of attorney allows you to put someone in charge to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do so. It will cover all assets that are not in your living trust and it often allows your agents to handle other day-to-day issues you may have (e.g., paying bills, dealing with credit card fraud, etc.).
You do want to ensure that the power of attorney is “durable,” which means that it continues even if you become incapacitated (some older forms have expiration dates or expire upon your incapacity). Additionally, you will need to decide if your power of attorney should be immediate, meaning that your agent can act for you the moment you sign it, or if it should be springing. A springing power of attorney only becomes effective when your agent gets doctors’ letters stating you are unable to manage your finances.
An advance health care directive allows you to name someone to be in charge of your medical decisions and decisions about the disposition of your remains. In a health care directive you typically indicate whether or not you wish to remain on life support indefinitely, or allow your agent to take you off if you are not going to get better. It will also allow you to state your wishes with regard to cremation or burial. Often there will also be a section about whether or not you want to be an organ donor.
A HIPAA release allows you to give your consent to allow your health care agent to access your medical records if necessary.
Preparing a health care directive not only avoids a conservatorship process (a court process to appoint an agent for an incapacitated person), but it can make an extremely difficult time for your family easier because they know and understand your wishes.