Create A Living Will Before You’re Ill
No one, and I do mean no one, takes pleasure in thinking about the possibility of becoming mentally or physically incapacitated to the degree of being unable to handle day-to-day financial matters or make healthcare decisions.
However, if you don’t think about it and make plans that will ensure things are taken care of in that eventuality, you are doing yourself and your loved ones a great disservice. You’re also giving the court the legal power to intervene in your personal affairs.
The fact is that you may never use any of the legal documents except a will upon your death. But one thing is certain, should you become incapacitated, you don’t want a court’s intervention. So, create documents that give someone you love and trust legal authority to act on your behalf. It’s a necessary precaution.
Durable Powers Of Attorney (DPOA)
To avoid an intrusive court proceeding, give someone you trust the legal authority to act for you. You do this by creating documents called durable powers of attorney; one for financial matters and one for healthcare. If you wish, you can even state that the documents won’t have any effect unless and until you become incapacitated. Once signed and notarized, it’s legally valid, and your mind can be at ease.
A living will, or advance directive, gives directions to your health care providers about your wishes for end-of-life care.
You can go into very specific detail or you might simply say that you want everything necessary to relieve pain but don’t want to receive extraordinary measures such as CPR in certain circumstances. If you have a medical condition, you’ll probably want to go into more relevant detail.
You use a DPOA for health care to give someone you trust the authority to carry out the wishes in your advance directive, and to make other medical decisions if necessary.
A DPOA for finances gives someone authority over your assets. This can be a big benefit to family members. If a family member needs access to your checking account to pay the mortgage, for example, they’ll be able to. Without a DPOA for finances, your family would have to ask the court to appoint a conservator or guardian to handle your money and would be obligated to submit to court supervision.
You may wonder why you can’t cover health care matters and finances in just one power of attorney document. Technically, you could — but it isn’t a good idea. Making separate documents will keep life simpler for your those you assign power to and others. For example, your health care documents are likely to be full of personal details that your financial broker doesn’t need to know. Likewise, your health care professionals don’t need to be burdened with the details of your finances.
Act Sooner Rather Than Later
It may not be pleasant to think about being incapacitated, but the fact is, it will be more pleasant for everyone if it should happen and you are legally prepared. No one ever knows exactly how life will play out. This is one of those tasks that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.