PLANNING FOR INCAPACITY
Do you know who can make legal, financial, or medical decisions on your behalf in the event you became incapacitated? If you are an adult who has not taken the proper estate planning steps, the only way that another person can make these decisions on your behalf is by going through the court supervised process of being appointed your guardian. Thankfully, you can avoid the time, cost, and stress of dealing with a guardianship by executing three simple documents: the Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and Living Will.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney may be the most important of all legal documents. This legal document allows you to appoint another person or group of people to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. The powers granted under a Durable Power of Attorney can be very broad or quite limited depending on a client’s wishes and specific circumstances.
A Durable Power of Attorney distinguishes itself from a regular Power of Attorney in its special wording that states the power survives the principal’s incapacity. Without a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney, your loved ones could face obstacles when they try to deal with your real or personal property, protect your rights, or access your bank or brokerage accounts to pay your expenses.
The Roark Law Firm can assist clients in evaluating who to select as the client’s agent, and identify the specific powers that should be given to an agent based on the broad goals and unique circumstances of a client’s estate plan.
Living wills, or advance directives, typically provide directions to medical personnel on what medical care to provide a person with a terminal condition, irreversible end-stage condition, or persistent vegetative state if he or she becomes incapacitated and cannot communicate their wishes for themselves. Living wills are designed specifically to outline plans as to whether life support should or should not continue in the event one or more physicians determine that the person has no reasonable chance of recovery. In addition to spelling out end of life care preferences, a Living Will can also appoint a person or group of people to serve as enforcers of the Living Will. By appointing an enforcer, you can prevent feuding between family members and loved ones about who exactly has the power to make the difficult decisions that must be made about your end of life care.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate Forms
While a Living Will can only address the issue of whether life support should be provided, continued, or withdrawn, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate form, sometimes also called a health care proxy, can be designed to address the countless other medical issues that may arise in the event of medical or physical incapacity. A Designation of Health Care Surrogate form can authorize certain individuals to talk to your health care providers, review your medical records, and give informed consent to medical procedures. The document also can address whether or not you would like to remain at home or be moved to a nursing facility. A properly drafted Designation of Health Care Surrogate form should grant HIPAA rights to your designated decision makers.
The benefits of having a well-designed Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will extend far beyond simply avoiding the cost and hassle of establishing a guardianship. These documents provide you and your loved ones peace of mind that important medical decisions can be made quickly and efficiently by the people you trust most.
COMMON ESTATE PLANNING QUESTIONS:
• What Are The Components That Make Up An Effective Trust?
• What Are The Advantages Of Avoiding Probate?
• Can I Add An Asset To My Trust At Any Time?
• Do I Need To Have An Attorney Involved In Funding A Trust?
• What Does It Mean To Actually Fund A Trust?
• What Is an Estate Plan? What Does It Consist of?