It seems unfathomable that a day might come when you can no longer make your own decisions. Things like paying bills, making purchases for the family, or talking to your doctor about what makes the most sense for an upcoming surgery are easy now because you do not need to rely on anyone. But should you need that extra assistance someday, there is peace of mind that comes with estate planning and deciding who we trust with certain medical and financial decisions.
Below are a few documents that can come in handy during that time of need:
Directive to Physicians vs. Do Not Resuscitate
These documents specify whether you want to be kept alive on machines. For example, I have a Directive to Physicians because if I have a heart attack, I want you to call 911 and have CPR performed on me. If, after doing CPR, the doctors say that they can put me on a ventilator but that there is no hope of recovery, I do not want to be put on life support. If the doctors say they can put me on a ventilator and I may recover, I want to be put on life support.
Conversely, a DNR would tell the paramedics not even to perform CPR in the first place. In each instance, the document carefully details my wishes, so there should not be any questions moving forward regarding my care. With that said, each option should be carefully weighed and discussed with your family beforehand.
Medical Power of Attorney
A Healthcare or Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you become too ill or incompetent to make decisions for yourself.
Examples of duties a Medical POA can assume include:
- Medical tests decisions
- Medication decisions
- Surgery decisions
Financial Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney has long been known as a go-to option when choosing another person (called the attorney-in-fact or agent) to handle financial affairs on your behalf should you become incapacitated and can no longer make critical business, personal, or financial decisions for yourself. People like the financial POA because of the:
1. Ability to choose — You can choose who will make decisions for you.
2. Flexibility — The power you allow can be narrow (example: pay bills and sign checks) or broad, and temporary or permanent.
3. Not just for incapacitation — Many people who travel overseas extensively or are in the military rely on the POA so that someone they trust can handle important affairs on their behalf.
4. Convenience — You do not have to be present for your attorney-in-fact to handle certain affairs on your behalf.
5. Improved planning — A POA can also keep your family from dealing with costly and emotional court proceedings.
I always encourage my clients to have hard conversations with their families. This allows individuals the opportunity to let personal decisions be known while also giving family members the chance to come to terms with choices that are different from their own. The harder it is to have the conversation, the more important it probably is to have it.
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