Many people believe that estate planning only outlines what happens to our “stuff” after we’re gone. It’s true that a good portion of estate planning does focus on how we want our assets distributed after we pass away. However, a complete estate plan should include an equally important contingency plan for what happens if we become incapacitated are no longer able to make decisions for ourselves while we’re still alive. There are two main estate planning documents that protect our wishes and act on our behalf if we become physically or mentally incapacitated and can’t make legal, medical, and financial decisions ourselves: a Power of Attorney (POA) and an Advance Directive for Healthcare.
Power of Attorney (POA)
A POA is a legal document that grants an agent of your choice the power to make medical, legal and financial decisions for you. There are several different Powers of Attorney. A healthcare Power of Attorney is specifically used to designate an agent to act on your behalf regarding medical treatment and healthcare decisions. A durable Power of Attorney deals with financial and legal decisions. Once enacted, the POA is canceled only upon your death, or if you regain your mental capacity.
Advance Directive for Healthcare
Also known as a “living will,” this document exists to outline your wishes when it comes to healthcare, in the event that you become incapable of communicating these wishes yourself…for example, if you become injured, or develop a severe illness or psychiatric condition, etc. Every adult with beliefs, wishes, and/or specific decisions they would like made regarding their treatment and care—for example, would you like a feeding tube or ventilator, or would you be open to experimental medicine as a last resort, etc.—should have a professionally prepared Advance Directive for Healthcare on file.
Both is Better
Having someone named as your agent in a POA, or having an Advance Directive for Healthcare is a good start…but having both is even more beneficial to you. The directive can outline your wishes in the form of specific instructions, and your agent can carry out those wishes on your behalf.
Schedule Your Free Consultation
Barry Law, LLC can help you get started with your estate plan today. We are here to guide you through the process, and ensure your voice is heard loudly and clearly in your estate planning documents. If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation to review your estate planning needs, call David Barry at (913) 336-1600, or complete the brief form below to send a message to our team.