Estate planning protects your property, family, health care wishes and legacy but only if you do it correctly. The process is not as simple as drafting and signing a single document that states your intentions.
Two pieces of paperwork that coordinate to enforce your desires include a living will and power of attorney. What do these items accomplish?
What living wills can do
During a crisis where you are unable to communicate, a living will makes clear your preferences for health care. Another name for this provision is an advanced directive.
Unfortunately, studies show that most Americans do not have a living will. The most likely to draft one is a college-educated or upper-income individual, but the percentage of those who do so still only reaches 59%.
The benefit of the document is it can prevent confusion and disputes among your family. It also makes it easier for medical professionals to respect your wishes. For example, you might not want resuscitation if you will have a poor quality of life or diminished cognitive capacity afterward. Likewise, you can clarify the kind of treatments you are willing to accept and those you patently refuse.
The purpose of a power of attorney
A power of attorney authorizes a responsible person to make decisions for you, particularly when you are unable to do so. The POA allows someone to manage your affairs in the meantime. Without a POA, your family may have to go through a challenging and costly legal process to appoint a guardian.
You can create multiple POAs to care for the various aspects of your life and set limits on its use. For instance, you could draft a medical POA for health care and a financial POA for your bills and payments. Also, you can specify that your agent has full authority to act on your behalf or restrict decisions to particular interests and timeframes.
You benefit by having both a living will and a power of attorney. Whether you face death or incapacitation, you can have increased confidence that responsible parties will act as you wish.