One of the most common mistakes is assuming that estate planning is just about writing trusts and wills to ensure that property is distributed based on your wishes after you pass away. In many situations, incapacity planning is overlooked completely. However, it is often essential because it helps address what happens if you can’t handle your financial affairs or make medical decisions due to a medical condition or injury.
The Healthcare Directive
Healthcare directives are extremely similar to living wills. However, a living will is only effective when your death is imminent. On the other hand, healthcare directives become effective once you are no longer able to speak on your own behalf because of unconsciousness or a terminal medical condition.
With a healthcare directive in place, you can express the specific types of medical treatments you don’t want. For example, you can outline that you don’t want any type of life-prolonging procedures used, such as respirators or surgery. Healthcare directives can be amended or revoked at any time as long as the principal is competent to do so.
The Healthcare Power of Attorney
Since the healthcare directive doesn’t address all situations that may arise, you may also need to have a healthcare power of attorney in place. This is the document that lets you appoint a person (the healthcare agent) to make any type of healthcare decisions for you, if you are no longer able to let your healthcare wishes be known on your own.
You can specify that the agent has to make healthcare wishes based on what is written in your healthcare directive. If your healthcare directive doesn’t address a certain situation, then you can direct that your agent makes the decision based on what you have told that person.
While making decisions on your behalf is the primary role of your agent, they can also do the following:
- Review your medical records
- Check you into and out of medical facilities or hospitals
- Receive information about your care
- Hire or fire medical staff providing care for you
The Durable Power of Attorney
If you ever reach a point where you are incapacitated, then your financial situation can be delegated to another person (again an agent) who you have designated in your durable power of attorney. The majority of agents will pay your taxes and bills and manage any of your other financial affairs.
If you need to have these documents drafted, or have more questions about them, the best thing you can do is speak with The KC Estate Planner, LLC. They will be able to help you create the legal documents you need to ensure your wishes are followed. This will provide you with peace of mind that everything is handled properly and that your affairs are in order.