Are Estate Planning Documents for the Living, Or the Dead? White Plains, New York
Too many people don’t understand the importance of estate planning as a means of protecting themselves and their families, while they are living. There’s more to estate planning than meets the eye!
What happens when an adult is injured in a terrible accident and is in a coma? If the person was in charge of the household’s finances, how will bills get paid while they are recovering? If they are never going to recover, how will their family make financial or health care decisions on their behalf?
This unfortunate scenario is one of many life events that an estate plan can address.
AL.com’s recent article, “If You Don’t Have This, You Need It” says that a better solution is to be proactive and have your attorney create a Power of Attorney before you need one. Let’s look at the different types of POAs.
- Springing Power of Attorney. This only becomes effective under certain conditions, typically incapacity. A big disadvantage of this POA, is that when someone tries to use it on your behalf, they may be required to "prove" that you are actually incompetent, creating inconvenience and delays.
- General Power of Attorney. This document is one in which you give your attorney-in-fact the authority to act on your behalf at any time. However, if you become incapacitated, this document is null and void.
- General and Durable Power of Attorney. This document lets your attorney-in-fact continue acting on your behalf, if you become incapacitated.
- Limited Power of Attorney. Here, you appoint someone to act on your behalf, only under certain conditions, such as only when you’re out of the country.
Consider your own situation. Which Power of Attorney is most appropriate for you? An experienced estate planning attorney will make this decision more accurate and easier. You will then decide whom you’d appoint as your attorney-in-fact. If you’re married, a natural choice is your spouse. However, you should also have at least one successor attorney-in-fact.
Consult with an estate planning attorney to be sure the document conforms to state law. Your counselor can help you decide which Power of Attorney type is best for your situation.
Advance Directive for Healthcare. This document describes your wishes on end-of-life care. These documents aren’t legally binding agreements, but it’s seldom that their instructions aren’t followed and accepted by healthcare professionals. Talk to an attorney, because they do vary by state. They’re typically, divided into two parts:
- Living Will. In this, you'll give detailed instructions on the level of care, should you become incompetent and facing a potential end-of-life situation. This should talk about whether you’d want to stay on life-support, remain on a feeding tube, or if you’d want hydration or pain medicines administered or withheld, should you ever be in a vegetative state. It’s far better for you to make these calls, instead of leaving it to a physician or a family member.
- Healthcare Proxy. This document names the person who you entrust with your health decisions. You may also use a Living Will, depending on your state’s laws, to convey your wishes and in that document, express your desire that no one speaks for you but your wishes in that document be followed.
An estate planning attorney should be consulted to prepare these documents. They will have years of experience with families and understand how to best express your wishes, so that they will be followed.
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