Estate Planning – Not Just End of Life Decisions

We tend to think of estate planning as a series of steps that help us make end-of-life decisions. You might envision the need for a will to establish burial wishes, or a trust to transfer your property to heirs. But estate planning also involves making provisions for things that might happen while you’re still alive.

For example, what would happen if you became ill, injured, or otherwise incapacitated? A number of different factors could impact your ability to make personal, financial, and medical decisions, such as Alzheimer, dementia, coma, or a stroke which results in reduced ability to communicate. In more rare situations, people have gone missing for extended periods of time, or important legal matters arise while they are out of the country. You might be surprised at the number of situations in which you need a plan in place to deal with life’s practical concerns.

In the event of a serious medical condition, an Advance Health Care Directive becomes an invaluable tool for protecting yourself. This document allows you to assign responsibility for medical decisions to someone whom you trust. You can also spell out your own wishes via this document, if you have specific concerns about life-sustaining treatment.

While an advance health care directive pertains only to medical decisions, granting someone power of attorney allows that person to act in your stead regarding legal and personal issues. With a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney in place if you become incapacitated or are unable to act (due to geographic location or any other factor), your legal representative can substitute for you in making legal and financial decisions.

In many cases, you might choose to assign power of attorney to one person, with a second individual listed on your advance directive to make medical decisions. This way, you can avoid any conflict of interest regarding medical care and financial matters. An estate planning attorney can review the benefits of each arrangement with you, and help you prepare the documents that you need to protect your future.

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