An important aspect of estate planning focuses on events during your life, not what happens after your death. Powers of attorney and advance health care directives help you maintain control of your most important and personal decisions if you become legally unable to speak for yourself.
You have the right to request medical treatment that you want, and to refuse medical treatment you do not want. But what happens if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself, or to express your wishes? This often happens to people who are older, due to Alzheimer's or dementia, but can happen to a person of any age as a result of accident or sudden illness. Loved ones may be left scrambling to get legal authority to make decisions, and then to try to discern what the patient would want.
Fortunately, you can avoid this scenario for your family and yourself by creating an advance health care directive. This term covers both health care powers of attorney (HCPOA) and living wills.
A durable HCPOA is a document that allows you to appoint an agent, also called a designated surrogate or health care proxy, to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. This not only ensures that someone you trust is making decisions for you, but prevents your loved ones from fighting over who has the right to do so. The term "durable" means that the power you are granting survives your incapacity. However, you can revoke or amend an HCPOA up until the time you become incapacitated.
If you do not have an HCPOA, your health care facility will likely choose your next-of-kin to make medical decisions on your behalf. If the person you want in this role is not your next-of-kin, an HCPOA is essential.
A living will is different from an HCPOA, but can work hand-in-hand with it. A living will is a document that indicates your preferences about starting, continuing, withholding, or withdrawing medical treatment. If you are gravely ill, having these preferences in writing can provide valuable guidance to your designated surrogate, giving them confirmation that they are acting in accordance with your wishes.
A financial power of attorney allows you to designate an agent to make financial decisions and transactions for you in the event you are legally incapacitated. Having a financial power of attorney in place allows someone you choose to seamlessly step into your shoes to protect your financial interests without having to go to court to get permission to do so. As with a health care power of attorney, it is essential to choose someone you trust completely to make these critical decisions for you.
Without a financial power of attorney, your loved ones will need to go to court to get authority to manage your financial affairs. This could mean fighting between family members for the right to handle your finances, and a delay between the time financial action needs to be taken and the time someone is able to take it.
Attorney Carlo LaMonica has devoted his entire legal career to helping residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania create comprehensive estate plans including advance directives and powers of attorney. At LaMonica Law Firm, we understand that planning ahead for incapacity is essential to your peace of mind and that of your loved ones. We will customize a plan to meet your needs and help you understand the power you are granting to your agent through advance directives and powers of attorney.
We have two office locations conveniently located in the Minooka area of Scranton and on Market Street in Kingston. LaMonica Law Firm works with clients throughout NEPA, including Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wayne, Wyoming, and Susquehanna Counties.
Contact us today to get the conversation started. We look forward to working with you.
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