In addition to planning for the disposition of your property at the time of your death, it is advisable that you also consider making advance directives. Advances in medical technology and in the control of acute life-threatening illness have made it necessary for persons to consider their desires regarding future medical care, particularly if that person should become mentally incapacitated. If a patient is incapacitated and cannot make his or her own decisions, legal authority rests with a surrogate who acts according to the patient’s previously expressed wishes (e.g., in a living will or a durable power of attorney), or who uses substituted judgment to interpret what the patient would likely want, or who decides according to his or her own judgment about what is in the patient’s best interests.
A “Living Will” is an instrument which states your desire regarding whether or not your life should be artificially prolonged if you have a terminal condition and you are expected to die within a short period of time. In executing a living will, you are simply communicating your wishes with regard to whether you wish to receive artificially supplied nutrition and hydration, even if the efforts to sustain life are futile or excessively burdensome to you. The “Appointment of Healthcare Representative” is an instrument which designates healthcare representatives to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. The Appointment of Healthcare Representative cannot be used by your healthcare representative to make these decisions unless you are deemed incapacitated by a physician.
Finally, the “Durable Power of Attorney” is an instrument which designates representatives, also known as attorneys-in-fact, to handle all of your financial and property affairs in the event of your incapacity. This type of document may also be used to allow a designated attorney-in-fact to make certain healthcare decisions for an incapacitated person.
Please contact our office to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific estate planning needs.