Estate planning ensures you can continue to take care of your loved ones after you are gone by distributing your assets among them. However, they can also protect you while you are still alive but unable to make decisions about your health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people of all ages should include living wills within their estate plans. Doing so offers peace of mind, while also taking the burden off your family should you become terminally ill.
Sometimes referred to as advanced directives, living wills are documents that spell out what kind of end-of-life care you prefer if you experience significant illness or injury. They contain details on different types of medical procedures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and mechanical ventilation. They can also contain information on palliative care, which is a form of medical care provided to make the patient comfortable without prolonging their life.
Because they include medical information, it is best to consult with a doctor when developing a living will. You should also consider making your family aware of your health care wishes, especially if you feel they might disagree with them.
Medical powers of attorney
A medical power of attorney is a personal representative that can speak on your behalf when you are unable to. In many cases, the person is a family member, such as a spouse or child. However, you can also choose another loved one or even a trusted friend.
When choosing a power of attorney, make sure the person is trustworthy and reliable. The person you choose must also adhere to your wishes regarding end-of-life care, no matter their personal beliefs. Choosing an assertive, confident person is equally important, as it is often intimidating speaking with medical staff and family members in these scenarios.
Many estate planners choose to combine living wills with medical powers of attorney to ensure family and medical staff honor their wishes. A living will provides a binding legal document explaining your wishes in detail, and a power of attorney can communicate these wishes to others directly.