A common mistake is to assume that estate planning is solely about ‘death’ planning and writing wills (and trusts) to make sure that your property is distributed according to your wishes after your death. Planning for incapacity or disability planning is often overlooked, but it can be essential because it addresses what happens if you are unable to make medical decisions or handle your financial affairs because of an injury or medical condition.
In most states, your wishes regarding your medical treatment may be made known by executing an advance directive to express your healthcare wishes.
A healthcare directive often contains both healthcare Power of Attorney provisions in addition to a “Living” Will.
Healthcare directives will allow you to express which kinds of medical treatments should be withheld. For example, you may specify that you would not want surgery, respirators, or other life-prolonging procedures to be used if there is no reasonable expectation of your recovery. Once you have executed a healthcare directive, you have the option to change it or revoke it at any time. Living wills take effect when your death can no longer be significantly delayed by treatment. Healthcare directives, in contrast, will generally become effective as soon as you are unable to speak for yourself due to a terminal or end stage medical condition or coma.
The healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become unable to communicate your healthcare wishes yourself. You can specify that your agent must make healthcare wishes according to what is stated in your healthcare directive. If your healthcare directive does not address a particular situation, or your desire is to give your agent authority to make all medical decisions for you, you can direct your agent to decide based on the preferences you have expressed to that person (within or outside the document).
In addition to making healthcare decisions on your behalf, your agent can be empowered to:
- Check you in and out of hospitals and medical facilities
- Hire and fire medical staff responsible for your care
- Receive information concerning your care
- Review your medical records
- Speak to insurance providers
It is essential to have a medical directive as part of any estate plan.
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts, and a charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation, and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 15 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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Author: Steve Shane, Esq.
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from the charlotte observer and Mike Hunter.
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