Everyone over the age of 18 should have a health-care proxy—a legal document designating someone to make health-care decisions for you if you are not able to. We used to think of these only for the elderly—until, that is, the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, when parents of unconscious victims were excluded by medical privacy laws from being involved in critical medical decisions.
Older or younger, we all need to have a health-care proxy. These forms can be prepared by an attorney but are also commonly available online and via health-care providers.
So how do you find a good estate-planning attorney? While the Web provides many search opportunities, I suggest getting recommendations from people you respect and trust. You can also check with your local bar association for a listing of estate-planning attorneys in your area. You don't need the most high-priced, sophisticated attorney, but you don't want someone who "also does wills," either.
Instead, seek a lawyer who specializes in wills and does this routinely.
—By David Mendels, Special to CNBC.com. David Mendels is a certified financial planner and director of planning for Creative Financial Concepts in New York.