When most people hear about estate planning, they think about wills and testamentary trusts – things that take effect after they have passed away. However, there are key parts of any complete estate plan that can help while you are alive.
Medical Directives Guide Healthcare Decisions When You Can’t
Medical directives, also sometimes called living wills, are documents where you, with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, lay out what you would like to happen in your medical care. Medical directives can include Do Not Resuscitate orders, which tell doctors and nurses not to use aggressive life-saving treatments that can prolong suffering. They can also be useful to document religious objections to treatments, allergies to medications or latex, or even list current prescriptions. By preparing medical directives in advance you can avoid having to make split-second decisions in the midst of an emergency.
Medical Powers of Attorney Name Who Can Make Decisions For You At The Hospital
Sometimes you are not physically able to say what you want to happen. A medical power of attorney, sometimes called a designation of patient advocate, names the person (or people) you trust to make tough medical decisions when you are not medically capable of making them yourselves. These patient advocates, often close family or friends, use your medical directives as guidance, and have the authority to make decisions about life-saving treatment, experimental procedures, or where you will receive treatment.
HIPAA Releases Give Loved Ones Access To Necessary Medical Information
Medical decisions are only as good as the information they are based on. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents doctors and hospitals from talking to anyone about your medical condition without your consent. That includes the family members you want making decisions for you. A HIPAA release authorizes trusted individuals to receive that sensitive information even if you are not available to give consent. A HIPAA release can also be useful to caregivers and parents of college-age students who are often responsible for scheduling medical appointments.
Financial Powers of Attorney Let Loved Ones Help With Your Finances
Hospitals aren’t the only place aging adults may need help. As it gets more difficult for you to drive or understand your circumstances, you may need at the bank, working with attorneys, or addressing your financial planning. Many licensed professionals protect the privacy of their clients, and won’t talk to your loved ones without your verbal or written consent. A financial power of attorney can allow your children, spouse, or other loved one to act on your behalf when it comes to money matters. It also allows them to sign for you if you are unable to travel to the bank or office. Financial powers of attorney can also be helpful to those facing a criminal conviction. They can ensure a spouse or loved one can pay attorney fees and manage your affairs during your jail or prison sentence.
Special Needs Trusts Protect Assets For Disabled Persons
Trusts are some of the most complicated estate planning documents. Generally speaking, they create a legal entity, managed by a trustee, to handle a person’s assets and use them for their benefit. In Michigan, they are also one way that a person applying for social security disability insurance or other forms of means-tested welfare, to protect his or her assets and ensure there is money available for medical care, housing, and other day-to-day needs. This form of special needs trust must be carefully constructed and properly funded to avoid penalties and potential disqualification. When done properly, they can make sure you can live comfortably and still make the most of government benefits.
Estate planning does include preparations for your assets and heirs after you die. However, that is not its only use. The tools of a modern estate plan can be used in the hours and days after surgery, as a matter of convenience when you are out of state, or even incarcerated. Careful estate planning can be used to protect your wishes and your loved ones to make the most of life while you are still alive.