Despite people often using the terms interchangeably, a last will is not the same thing as an estate plan. A last will is a specific document that many people include in their estate plan. An estate plan is a comprehensive plan that includes multiple documents and addresses not only what happens when someone dies but also what happens if they become severely ill or incapacitated.
The collection of documents that address someone’s needs in the event of medical issues is a living will. Your living will gives other people the authority the handle matters on your behalf when you cannot and also provides guidance to those making decisions for you. There are two kinds of documents that almost everyone will want to include in their living will.
An advance medical directive
Considering your medical wishes before you need treatment can be difficult but also smart. You may only be able to give broad guidance about your general wishes because it is impossible to predict exactly what medical issues you might experience in the future.
However, you can provide direction regarding life support, organ donation, pain management and many other crucial medical decisions in an advance medical directive. Properly executed and filed, an advance medical directive can authorize the care that you need and take the pressure off of your loved ones.
Powers of Attorney
In situations where you cannot speak for yourself due to incapacitation or unconsciousness, a power of attorney can give someone else the authority to act on your behalf. Some people delegate financial authority so that another person can pay their bills or manage their business. Others use powers of attorney to empower someone other than their spouse to manage their medical decisions.
Recording your wishes in detail is as important as empowering someone to act on your behalf. You have the option of being as specific as you want when it comes to authorizing certain kinds of care and what medical or financial authority you choose to delegate to someone else through powers of attorney.
The initial creation of a living will and occasional updates to these documents as your family and medical situation changes will offer you the optimal degree of protection and control.