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Planning for Incapacity: Estate Planning Is More Than Planning for When You’re Gone

Who will make health and financial decisions for you if you can’t? A crucial part of any estate plan are the documents appointing people to make decisions when you can’t. What happens if you’re in a car wreck, unconscious and in the hospital?  Who will follow your health care wishes, pay your bills, or manage your investment or bank accounts?

Your powers of attorney, both for your health and your property, answer this question.  One of the most important parts of an estate plan are these documents, which appoint someone to make health care or financial decisions for you.

Medical or Health Care Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Directive

A Medical or Health Care Durable Power of Attorney appoints a person to make medical decisions for you if you cannot.   A related document, a Living Will or Advance Directive, specifies your wishes regarding the medical treatment you do or don’t want if you are terminally ill or near death and there is little likelihood of recovery.  We also include a HIPAA release with the documents we prepare for our clients, which allows your appointed person to obtain your medical records and discuss your care with your doctors.

Financial Durable Power of Attorney

Like your Health Care Power of Attorney, this document appoints a person (your “agent”), to make decisions, and sign documents, regarding your finances and other property.  It can be made effective immediately, so your agent can act on your behalf right away.  It can also be “springing” meaning it becomes effective typically on a finding by one or more doctors that you no longer can manage your own affairs.

Who Should You Choose?

This is a crucial decision that requires some thought.  You should choose someone who will always decide in your best interests.  They must be someone you trust completely.  And, at least on the health care front, they should be available in an emergency.  Most people choose a spouse, a trusted family member or a close friend. The people you choose do not need to be the same.  Sometimes the person you trust with health care is not the person you trust with your property.

Everyone 18 and over needs these basic estate planning documents.  You don’t want to be in a situation where the state chooses the person who makes decisions for you.  And importantly, don’t assume that you can make decisions for your adult child.  See our blog post here for more information.

Contact our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for assistance preparing these important documents and for any other questions regarding Estate Planning or ElderLaw.

**The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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