Estate planning isn’t just about what happens to your assets after you die. It’s also about protecting yourself and your loved ones. To ensure that your wishes are carried out, and that your family is spared the burden of guessing — or arguing over — what you would decide, put those wishes in writing. Generally, that means executing two documents:
1. A Living Will
This document expresses your preferences for the use of life-sustaining medical procedures, such as artificial feeding and breathing, surgery, invasive diagnostic tests, and pain medication. It also specifies the situations in which these procedures should be used or withheld. Living wills often contain a “do not resuscitate” order, often referred to as a “DNR,” which instructs medical personnel not to perform CPR in the event of cardiac arrest.
2. A Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPA)
This document authorizes a surrogate — your spouse, child, or another trusted representative — to make medical decisions or consent to medical treatment on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. It’s broader than a living will, which generally is limited to end-of-life situations, though there may be some overlap. An HCPA might authorize your surrogate to make medical decisions that don’t conflict with your living will, including consenting to medical treatment, placing you in a nursing home or other facility, or even implementing or discontinuing life-prolonging measures.
It’s a good idea to have both a living will and an HCPA or, if allowed by state law, a single document that combines the two. Contact Maggart if you have questions regarding either one or about any other aspect of the estate planning process.