Three Estate Planning Documents Every Person Needs (part 3 of 3)

Posted by Tracy Zihmer

In Parts 1 and 2 of this blog series, we talked about the first of three documents that a typical estate plan includes (at a bare minimum).  To recap, those documents include:

Last Will and Testament

Financial Power of Attorney

- Healthcare Power of Attorney/Living Will

Depending on the attorney that prepares your power of attorney, the Healthcare Power of Attorney/Living Will is either one document broken into two parts or two separate documents (the power of attorney is sometimes referred to as a Healthcare Directive). Your Healthcare Power of Attorney allows a person that you name (that person is called a healthcare agent) to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to make those decisions yourself (you become incapacitated).  The incapacity could be short term or long term.  The Living Will section of your Healthcare Power of Attorney provides instructions for your agent to follow for your medical care if you have a terminal illness or are permanently unconscious.   Some of the decisions you would make would include whether you would want tube feedings, antibiotics, surgery, to be resuscitated, etc.  You would also need to decide whether you want to be an organ donor and if there are any limitations to your donations. Finally, another important decision is whether or not your agent is required to follow your instructions or if your instructions provide guidance only and your agent makes the final decision.  You should discuss the various decisions with your attorney to ensure your end of life care is handled in accordance with your wishes. 

Similar to the financial power of attorney, If you do not have a power of attorney in place, your family may be forced to go through expensive court proceedings in order to be appointed as your guardian to make medical decisions for your during your incapacity.  Therefore, the most cost-effective way to protect you and your family in the case on incapacity is to appoint an agent in your Healthcare Power of Attorney/Living Will.