4 Legal Documents Everyone Needs on Hand

Filling these four documents out now will make sure you and your loved ones are on the same page, literally.

A blue tinted image of silver ball point pen lying on scattered legal contract documents on a wooden table, ready to sign to complete the deal. This conceptual image is shot with a shallow depth of field, and all paperwork is generic. Part of a contract series of images.
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A family emergency involving a loved one, including a serious illness, can happen without warning. Lining up these legal documents in advance — and keeping them in a safe but accessible place — will save you precious time and unnecessary hassle.

Durable power of attorney. This document, which generally goes into effect immediately, gives you and your spouse (or partner) the authority to manage each other’s finances if one of you becomes incapacitated. Adult children or a trusted friend can also hold your power of attorney. You can order the form from an online legal site, such as Nolo, for about $60. But the better route is to use an estate-planning lawyer. A lawyer will make sure the form conforms to state law and is properly executed.

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Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.