Wills and trusts, the best-known parts of estate planning, mostly control what will happen to your assets after you pass away. That is a vital part of estate planning, but it’s not the only thing you can do with it. A comprehensive estate plan can also give you invaluable help while you are still alive.
You never know when an accident or illness could leave you unable to communicate or understand what is happening to you. A mentally incapacitated person cannot speak to their doctor or make necessary decisions about treatment and end-of-life care. But you can still maintain control over your care despite incapacity with an advance directive.
Deciding for when you cannot decide
Sometimes called a living will, an advance directive is a document in which you explain what sort of medical attention you would want in various scenarios. For example, you can decide ahead of time if you would want to be attached to a ventilator or feeding tube to prolong your life. Or if you would object to a blood transfusion, as many people do for religious reasons. These decisions are up to you, based on your personal values.
You can also create a healthcare power of attorney to choose somebody to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them yourself, such as authorization to undergo surgery. The person you choose to be your healthcare power of attorney can be virtually anyone you trust, such as your spouse or one of your adult children. As long as you are mentally able to make decisions about your own care, the healthcare power of attorney will not go into effect.
More than a will
Your estate plan can be as simple as a will, but it can be much more than that. A discussion with an estate planning lawyer can be the first step toward greater peace of mind for yourself and your family.