Estate Planning – Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney For Health and Finance

Estate planning frequently involves more than just having a Will. Living wills as well as durable powers of attorney for health care and finance protect your estate in case your are incapacitated, but not deceased.

A living will permits you to express your wishes regarding resuscitation and life maintaining measures in the event you later become incapable of communicating your desires. It can help you try to avoid what some believe to be an undignified existence by allowing you to decline medical treatment, food, and water if these things are “artificially” keeping you alive. The choice is yours to make and physicians will honor your wishes if the proper documents are submitted.

A durable power of attorney for health care, on the other hand, allows you to appoint another person to make decisions for you regarding your medical care in the event you cannot. This power is broader than the living will. It, too, covers situations where you may be terminally ill and need resuscitation or other life maintaining measures to stay alive. Your agent, or attorney-in-fact, can decline these treatments if you give them that power. It also applies to situations where a health care decision is required but you cannot make that decision yourself (i.e., you are unconscious as a result of injury). Your agent could authorize or decline medical treatment on your behalf.

A durable power of attorney for finance allows you to appoint another person to make decisions for you regarding your real and personal property. This power is broad and covers situations where you are terminally ill or unconscious as a result of injury, but still living. Your agent, or attorney-in-fact, can manage your financial affairs as you so wish.

If you decide to create either a living will or a durable power of attorney for health care and/or finance, you will need to consider several things before you complete the documents. You will have to provide the name and contact information for the individual(s) that you nominate to make decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them.

Be sure to inform the person you nominate of your wishes. You can permit or refuse to permit donation of your organs for transplant. You can also permit or refuse to permit donation of your body for scientific or educational purposes. Some people wish to spend their last days at home rather than in a hospital. Some people wish to nominate one person to act as their attorney-in-fact for health care and another for their finance. You can express your wishes regarding these issues in these documents. Finally, you can express your wishes about funeral arrangements.

Please consult with an attorney if you desire to execute or have questions regarding estate planning documents.

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