No one likes to think about the day they can’t make even simple decisions for themselves. But it can happen. It can happen as fast a short drive to the grocery store turning into a car accident that leaves you in a coma. More likely, though, you’ll live into old age, but you might become one of the 5.8 million Americans with dementia. So who will take care of you? More than likely it will be your children. But will they be able to navigate all the hurdles they will face?
The answer lies in three important legal documents that can mean all the difference in a crisis. If you have created a Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate, congratulations, you have taken a crucial step in life planning.
The Durable Power of Attorney is a powerful document that grants someone else either specific or wide-ranging control of some aspect of your life. As “grantor” of these powers you enable your “agent” to decide and act on your behalf. The power to do so is immediate, after the document is legally completed, though you can amend or revoke this document at any time. Now, if something unfortunate should befall you, there is someone who can use the document to speak to financial institutions, utilities and other entities that might need attention. Without this document, your bank is not required to work with your adult children to monitor your accounts, pay your bills, etc.
A Living Will is the document in which you spell out what you do and do not receive from medical professionals if you are unable to speak for yourself. For example, do you want to be on life-prolonging machines and feeding procedures at the end of life, even if there is little to no hope of coming back? A well-crafted living will gives clear direction to your family and friends about your wishes in these situations. Because you have dictated your wishes in writing, it takes the burden off siblings and can keep the peace if there are differing opinions.
The Healthcare Surrogate document, sometimes called a healthcare power of attorney, authorizes someone to discuss your healthcare and treatments with medical professionals if you are in a condition where you cannot speak for yourself. This person can ask for or refuse treatments, access your medical records, hire/fire medical personnel, and make decisions about which medical facilities are best for you.
Big decisions made easy
A seasoned estate planning attorney can help you navigate these documents, what should be in them, what can be taken out and how they would work in your unique family situation. At Mortellaro Law, our initial consultations are always free, so it costs you nothing to learn more about these important documents.