When most folks think about estate planning they think about wills, trusts, and other asset-management tools. An estate plan is synonymous with financial organization and leaving everything in order for one’s heirs. And while, yes, this is a big part of it, it’s not the whole story. An estate plan also protects you while you are living and this is never truer than should you suffer incapacitating injury.
What Happens If You Can’t Make Your Own Healthcare Decisions?
There’s nothing more personal than being able to make decisions concerning your own body. Indeed, this is so basic that it is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the “right to life, liberty and security of person.” No one should ever lose this capacity and yet that is precisely what can happen if you’re severely injured and have no plan in place.
When a person suffers an incapacitating injury and has no medical power of attorney or advance directive (more about these documents later) on record, state law steps in to act on their behalf. In most cases, the person or people who can make medical decisions for you is determined by order of priority. Your spouse or adult children top the list, followed by parents, siblings, grandchildren, and sometimes close friends.
Not only may these not be the people you want handling your medical decisions, but they also may not have the information needed to do so. This is dangerous, sure, and it is also a recipe for conflict among your loved ones. When the stakes are high and the instructions are unclear, disagreement can quickly escalate and sometimes even lead to expensive court battles. Nobody wants that.
Medical Power of Attorney is the Solution
Beyond a will, trust, and other asset-management documents, a complete estate plan includes advance directives. This class of document refers to financial and medical powers of attorney (among other documents), which protect your finances and health should you suffer incapacitation.
When you execute a medical power of attorney, you designate a trusted loved one to make healthcare-related decisions in your stead. Furthermore, you articulate the kind of care you wish (and wish not) to receive. This may include instructions pertaining to daily routine (washing, dressing, eating), medical care, moving into a care home, and life-sustaining medical treatment.
A medical power of attorney not only protects your health and shields your family from conflict, but it also facilitates the work of healthcare professionals. Clear and accurate instructions often make the difference between life and death in cases of severe injury and so this is yet another reason to include a medical power of attorney in your estate planning.
To learn more about how your estate plan protects you and your family now and long after you’re gone, do not hesitate to contact the Polaris Law Group either by calling or using the contact form on our webpage. You can also learn more about estate planning and elder law by attending one of our workshops!