I recently read an article by Jean Cherni in the New Haven Register, which discussed the need for end-of-life planning documents. And just what are these documents and why do you need them? Here’s a summary:
No. 1: Durable power of attorney. This appoints another person to transact business, legal and financial matters for you until you die.
Why do you need it? Lets say you are incapacitated by an accident or illness, it allows the person you’ve chosen to act for you—and quickly. That can help you avoid a lot of problems, including hard-to-get guardianship and conservatorship rights. (If you are unsure of what either of these two terms means, this article makes it clear.)
No. 2: Appoint a health-care representative. As with the first document, this allows someone to act on your behalf to make health-care decisions if you’re unable. It allows them to do such things as review health records, authorize admission to or discharge from a hospital and make decisions about life-sustaining medical procedures.
Why do you need it? You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be fulfilled as you intended, especially when it comes to life-sustaining medical procedures. It also helps avoid family arguments about who should have the final say.
No. 3: Advance care directives or living will. This puts in writing the decisions you have made about your health care—instructions, if you will, for your doctor—so that your wishes are followed if you are unable to articulate them.
Why do you need it? It ensures, for example, that you receive the treatment you’ve decided on beforehand if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
It helps to ensure that the treatments you will receive in a terminal or permanently unconscious situation are in concert with your wishes and provides guidance to your health-care representative.
No. 4: A will or revocable living trust. This puts in writing who will inherit your assets when you die, and in what manner. These two documents can help eliminate, avoid or postpose taxes that are payable when you die. An attorney can help you decide which of these documents is better for you.
Why do you need these? If you do not have a will or a revocable living trust, basically the government will be able to decide how and to whom your assets are distributed, and it may not be to those you intended.
These legal documents require the guidance of a qualified legal advisor to insure they meet the requirements of your state of residency, and if you already have these but have moved to a new state, they should be reviewed to insure they comply with the laws of your state.