Planning for Incapacity
Suppose that you were in a car accident or had a stroke that left you in a non-communicative state. Without question, you would want your wishes followed with respect to how much and what kind of medical care you would receive. Unfortunately, if said wishes are not in writing, they carry no weight. Enter the legal document known as an advance medical directive or living will. Regardless of where a person stands with respect to life-sustaining care, it is absolutely a good idea to have a living will in place. To ensure that it’s compliant will the laws of your state, an estate planning attorney should be consulted.
An important complement to a living will is a durable power of attorney for healthcare, a legal document that appoints an agent (someone with authority to act on behalf of another) to make healthcare decisions on behalf of a principal who is unable to make those decisions for him/herself. Normally, the agent would be a spouse, other family member, trusted friend, or clergyman. It’s also a good idea to designate an alternate agent in the event that the primary agent is unavailable (e.g., a car accident involving both spouses). Again, an estate planning attorney should be consulted.
Naturally, as with home and auto insurance, we hope to never need a living will or healthcare power of attorney, but everyone would agree that the predicament of needing it yet not having it would be unthinkable.