If you have already created a last will, you might think that your estate planning process is over. However, simply allocating your assets to certain people is far from a comprehensive estate plan. The best estate plans address not just mortality, but also incapacitation. People could find themselves unable to make decisions or advocate for themselves for a broad range of reasons.
From a coma caused by a car accident to a sudden medical event like a stroke, there are countless ways in which an individual may wind up incapable of making medical decisions on their own behalf, despite still being alive.
Your estate plan should address this potential circumstance as well as your death. The documents that address your desires if you cannot speak on your own behalf are called a living will. The sooner you create a thorough estate plan, the better your peace of mind will be.
A living will guides your family members to make the right decisions
Many different documents belong in a thorough living will. For example, the inclusion of an advance medical directive is of utmost importance. Your medical directive will outline your personal preferences and wishes regarding medical choices. You can discuss everything from resuscitation and organ donation to the use of pain medication or life support.
Of course, simply leaving your wishes behind may not be sufficient. You may also want to create a power of attorney document that authorizes someone in your family or inner circle to make medical decisions on your behalf. A good power of attorney document has both language empowering the individual and language outlining your expectations for their actions.
Even if you believe your spouse could make certain decisions on your behalf, naming someone else as power of attorney can be beneficial if your spouse also becomes incapacitated or if your spouse is so emotionally distressed that they cannot make decisions for you.
You also want to leave financial authority to someone trustworthy
For many people, a living will serves as a stopgap between an illness or injury and their death, when their last will takes effect. Medical decisions aren't the only issue your family will have to deal with. There may also be financial obligations, ranging from mortgage payments to taxes.
Financial power of attorney can outline what you need to a family member and also authorize that individual to access your bank accounts in certain circumstances. Careful limitations and specific language are an important consideration. They help ensure that you don't wind up taking advantage of by someone you would not trust with power of attorney.
Planning for medical incapacitation may not be glamorous, but it is a smart move that protects you and your family members. If you don't yet have a living will in place, it may be time to discuss the creation of one with an attorney.