Most people think of estate planning as being for the benefit of those they leave behind — but the real focus of a good estate plan is around the individual making the plans.
Estate plans are far more than wills. A significant part of an estate plan is designed to give you a say — now, while you still can express your thoughts — over what happens to you if or when you are incapacitated in some way.
As people keep living longer, the odds of reaching an age where you are physically or mentally incapable of seeing to your own needs increase. That makes it important to have certain documents in place (and periodically updated as your needs, feelings or circumstances change):
1.) A certified living will is something that should be on file with every hospital that you use and part of your “emergency packet” that goes with you if you ever need immediate care. It spells out exactly what type of life-saving or life-sustaining treatments you want — and don’t want. Most commonly, people use them to specify whether they do or do not want to be resuscitated if they stop breathing or want to be put on a breathing machine if they can’t breathe on their own.
2.) A health care power of attorney (POA), which is a document that designates a person of your choosing to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them on your own. You cannot count on living wills to cover every possible situation. That means you want to discuss your general feelings about living and dying with the person you appoint and make sure not only that he or she understands them but is willing to see them through.
3.) A financial POA gives someone the right to pay your bills, access your bank account, pay your taxes, handle your investments — even sell your house if it’s necessary. If you are incapacitated for a long while, you’ll need someone who can handle these tasks for you. Otherwise, one of your relatives may have to go to court in order to seek the right to handle your affairs.
Estate planning is something that can’t wait. Consider it a gift to yourself that helps ensure your future.
Source: Market Watch, “This is the most important person to remember in your estate plan,” Brad Wiewel, Nov. 17, 2017