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End of life planning decisions are neither simple to make nor pleasant to address. Unfortunately, these are some of the most important decisions you can make when planning. Failure to consider these choices while you are of sound mind and body can cause these decisions to be determined by the courts, causing your loved one’s pain and distress. Take time now to thoughtfully consider your incapacity planning options with an estate planning specialist and share your decisions with trusted individuals.
The legal document known as a power of attorney allows you to assign an individual to act on your behalf. The trusted individual you name as power of attorney can pay your bills, manage your investments, and make other decisions if you cannot do so. General powers of attorney are nondurable, meaning they cease should you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney stays effective if you become incapacitated and become unable to tend to your own matters. Without a valid durable power of attorney, if you become incapacitated, your loved ones may not have the authority to handle your affairs; they may need to go to court.
A healthcare surrogate – or healthcare agent – is an individual you name to receive durable power of attorney for your healthcare. This designation gives the individual the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or cannot medically decide for yourself. Your healthcare surrogate will be given complete authority to make your medical decisions in that circumstance, but they can override no healthcare instructions you have set forth in a living will.
A living will is a legally binding document that enables you to set forth your wishes regarding medical and end-of-life treatment decisions if an emergency occurs or incapacitation. You may specify the healthcare you want to receive and those treatments you do not wish to receive. By including a living will in your estate plan, your family members and medical professionals will receive clear instructions regarding your healthcare and medical treatment. When preparing a living will, it is best to be detailed in your instructions.