In trying to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, many people put off making a plan for their end-of-life wishes. However, creating an estate plan to address your assets and medical needs gives you control over what happens in the future. Planning ahead with these documents is an important part of caring for your family and will give you peace of mind in knowing that you have your affairs in order.
In addition to assets, a solid estate plan will include documents that address your future medical wishes. An advanced healthcare directive includes documents such as a living will and durable power of attorney, to address your healthcare wishes should you become incapacitated and designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
A will addresses what happens to your possessions and assets after you pass on, but a living will addresses your medical preferences while you are still alive, but incapacitated. A living will is created when you are healthy to give you a say in what will happen in the future. If you were to become incapacitated, say in the case of Alzheimer’s Disease for example, and were unable to make decisions about your care, a living will leaves clear instructions regarding your healthcare wishes.
For a living will to be valid, it needs to be:
- Created by an individual over 18 of sound mind
- Signed by the individual
- Witnessed by two people
Durable power of attorney
A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a document that designates a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. A DPOA is typically a close relative who knows your wishes and will speak on your behalf and according to your beliefs in a healthcare crisis.
Casual conversation you might have with family members about these topics may not guarantee your wishes are honored as you would like. Choosing to include one or both of these documents in your estate plan gives you a voice in your future healthcare instructions.