Advance Directives and Powers of Attorney. An advance directive helps to ensure that your healthcare wishes will be respected if you can’t speak or communicate. It is usually a written, legal document. If you don’t have a written document, you may express your wishes verbally to your family members or healthcare agent. It is wise to have an advance directive in case you become severely injured or ill and cannot participate in decisions about your health and medical care. Living wills and medical powers of attorney are types of advance directives.

Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). This written document authorizes an agent to handle certain types of transactions. General powers of attorney are broad and allow many types of transactions. Conversely, limited powers of attorney are for a specific task. The power of attorney is “durable” because it remains valid even after the person no longer has legal capacity to handle transactions, possibly due to an injury or illness. All powers of attorney executed since 1993 in Pennsylvania are durable unless stated otherwise.

Guardianships. To qualify for a guardian, a person must be impaired in such a way that he is partially or totally unable to manage financial resources or meet essential physical health or safety requirements. Stringent standards apply. A petition must be filed when a guardian is necessary.

Living Wills. Also called a treatment directive, lists your wishes about end-of-life medical treatment. It is used if you no longer have the ability to make decisions or communicate. The living will can be written so as to refuse life-sustaining treatment if the maker is incompetent and either in a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness.

Medical Power of Attorney. A legal document that lets you appoint someone (usually called a health care agent or proxy) to make decisions about your medical care. You can create an advance directive at any time and change it whenever you wish. You should share copies with your primary care physician and family. Make sure your family knows where your advance directive is located, and give a copy to your healthcare proxy. For more information on writing an advance directive, visit webmd.com and type “advance directive” in the search box.

Trusts. A trust is similar to a box where you place property, except a person places money in a brokerage or bank account and designates a manager referred to as the “trustee.” The trustee distributes trust assets to the beneficiaries you select. Your attorney might recommend a trust if you have a large estate, an estate with young beneficiaries or in situations with special circumstances.

Wills. A will is an important legal document and the cornerstone of most estate plans. In a will, you direct how your property is to be distributed and you name a personal representative to administer your estate. The executor collects the estate assets, pays the estate debts and makes distributions to the beneficiaries you have designated in your will. It is generally advisable to nominate one executor and an alternate in your will rather than naming two individuals to serve as co-executors.

AARP Legal Services Network from Allstate
(866) 330-0753

AARP members receive a free initial consultation (by phone or in person) of up to 45 minutes with a local attorney who meets AARP standards of experience and customer service. For other types of legal services, you can receive a 20 percent reduction off the attorney’s usual fees. Basic services, including simple wills, powers of attorney and living wills, are available at special flat rates. Remember, not all wills are simple. Charges are higher for complicated wills. Reduced fees are offered for AARP members.

Butler County Office of Public Defender
(724) 284-5335

The Butler County Office of Public Defender ensures the indigent’s right to counsel as guaranteed by the United States Constitution, through the Sixth Amendment, and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, through Article I, Section 9. The Office of Public Defender is statutorily mandated and furnishes legal counsel to any person charged with an indictable offense who is unable to obtain counsel for lack of sufficient funds. The indigent’s right to counsel is further mandated under Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure Rule 122. As such, the very essence of the legal work performed within the Butler County Office of Public Defender is directly rooted in the constitutional provisions ensuring that an indigent person cannot be denied legal counsel whenever their personal liberty is at stake.

Since its establishment, the Public Defender’s Office has traditionally defended the majority of criminal cases filed within Butler County. The attorneys employed within the Office of Public Defender solely practice criminal law and offer legal counsel to qualifying indigent clients. All attorneys are admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania before the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Elder Law
Butler County Area Agency on Aging
111 Sunnyview Circle
Butler, PA 16001
(724) 282-3008

Elder Law offers legal advice and consultation in the areas of planning documents, consumer/finance, employment, healthcare, housing, income and family issues.

Disabilities Rights Pennsylvania
429 Fourth Ave., Ste. 701
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(800) 692-7443

Disability Rights Pennsylvania protects and advocates for rights of people with disabilities so that they may live the lives they choose, free from abuse, neglect, discrimination and segregation.

Neighborhood Legal Services Association (NLSA)
220 S. Main St., Ste. 301
Butler, PA 16001
(724) 282-3888

NLSA’s Elder Law Project provides legal assistance and representa­tion to adults ages 60 and older who may be victims of physical, emotional or financial abuse. They also assist with living wills, healthcare planning and alternatives to guardianship. Their Older and Wiser seminars present free legal information designed to help older adults and their families plan for matters of crucial importance in later life. NLSA does not handle criminal matters. NLSA provides various types of assistance to clients whose DHS benefits (cash, Medical, special allowances, food stamps) are being terminated. This is an income-based program.

Other matters in which NLSA provides assistance include:
• disability law issues that arise for those living with disabilities.
• employment law that addresses disputes in the workplace such as worker’s rights, sexual harassment, workplace safety, unemployment compensation and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
• housing issues related to the landlord-tenant relationship, as well as utility assistance.
• legal assistance to eligible veterans who are having problems with housing, utilities or other issues.
• Immigration law.

Pennsylvania Health Law Project
(800) 274-3258

PHLP provides free legal services to lower-income consumers, seniors and persons with disabilities who are having trouble accessing publicly funded healthcare coverage or services. If you are denied or terminated from enrollment in a publicly funded healthcare program or have a service denied, reduced or terminated, PHLP may provide you free direct representation on your appeal.

Pennsylvania SeniorLAW Center
(877) 727-7529

SeniorLAW helps to protect the legal rights and interests of seniors by providing free legal services, community legal education, professional training, advice, information and referral services and advocacy.