Following a format that users of “TurboTax®” will recognize, two automated forms went online Oct. 1 that allow users to create Living Will and Power of Attorney documents. A Living Will sets out how a person will be cared for if they are incapacitated, designating who will make their medical decisions. A Power of Attorney gives a designated agent the authority to make financial decisions. The automated systems guide the user thorough a series of questions and then produce forms that, when signed and notarized, are legally binding.
“These forms allow Nebraskan’s to direct how decisions will be made for them as they age” says Margaret Schaefer, ElderAccessLine® Attorney. “Getting good legal help is often very difficult for lower income Nebraskans, who will particularly benefit from these forms. And in many situations these forms will prevent the need for a guardianship down the road.”
Simple printable PDF forms have long been available and are still available in multiple locations. The difference is that these automated programs instruct the user every step of the way, providing much more flexibility and instruction than a blank form.
The system is intended for those with few assets; and, users are bumped from the system if their needs are more complex than the programs are designed to accommodate. These users are advised to contact an attorney, or in the case of an out-of-state user, to contact legal aid in their own state.
Much of the process of building the forms is instruction. The information is stated and restated in simple language and users are specifically told not to sign the form if questions remain. Font size is adjustable for readers with poor eyesight, and Legal Aid of Nebraska plans to include spoken word instruction, which will be useful for less confident readers.
The innovation was made possible through a three-year contract with the State Unit on Aging, a part of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“The availability of the free self-help Power of Attorney and Living Will forms online will help many seniors in Nebraska complete these important documents,” Calder A. Lynch, director of the Health and Human Services Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care, said. “We strongly encourage Nebraska families to take advantage of this resource to protect their or their loved one’s independence, health, and financial security.”