More Than a Will: Why Your Estate Plan Should Also Cover End-of-Life Issues

October 25, 2016

 

If you’ve spent your lifetime growing your career, raising a family and building a legacy, then you likely already understand the importance of estate planning. Your estate plan provides your loved ones and your local court with guidance on how you would like your assets to be distributed after your death.

 

Estate planning isn’t just for what happens after you die, though. A thorough estate plan also addresses issues that may arise in the months or years before you pass away. Many retirees suffer declining health in their final years, and possibly even cognitive issues. They may not have the awareness or ability to make and communicate decisions.

 

Your estate plan can address these issues. There are a number of documents and planning tools you can use to provide guidance about your legacy not only after your death, but also in the years before you pass away.

 

Have you addressed the issues below? If not, it may be time to reassess your estate plan.

 

Who will make medical decisions on your behalf?

 

It’s quite possible that you may not have the cognitive ability to make important health care decisions. You also may not have the physical ability to communicate those decisions. If so, your doctors and loved ones may be left to make decisions for you. It’s possible that their decisions may not be what you would choose for yourself.

 

One useful document is a health care power of attorney. You can name a trusted individual to act on your behalf in the event that you become mentally or physically incapacitated. If you have a health care power of attorney, your doctors and other health care professionals will turn to your designated individual for guidance. You should have a conversation with that person in advance so they have some understanding of your wishes in your final years.

 

Who will manage your finances?

 

If you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, it stands to reason that you also may not be able to make financial decisions. Of course, that could threaten your ability to pay for your health care, and it may even threaten the legacy you leave for your loved ones.

 

 

There are several ways to protect your assets if you’re incapacitated. One is to create a power-of-attorney document. This is different from the health care power of attorney in that this document addresses financial management. Your power of attorney has all the authority you would have for yourself to perform such tasks as paying bills, writing checks, managing investments, borrowing money and more.

 

You could also create a trust. You would then put your assets inside the trust by changing their ownership structure. You can be the trustee, but you could also name a successor trustee who could take over management of the assets should you become incapacitated.

 

What happens in an emergency?

 

A health care power of attorney grants decision-making authority to your designated individual should you be unable to make decisions for yourself. However, it may not always be possible for doctors to speak to your power of attorney before they take action.

 

For instance, what if you are living in a care facility and have some kind of life-threatening emergency that requires fast action? Health care providers will likely act first and speak to your loved ones later.

 

A living will is a great way to pass along instructions to your health care providers in fast-moving emergency situations. The living will instructs doctors and others on which actions you do and do not want them to take. For example, you might say that you don’t want to be saved if you will need respiratory support or if you are in a vegetative state. That way, doctors will know which actions to take even if they can’t reach your power of attorney.


Does your estate plan address these issues? If not, contact us at Bridgeriver Advisors LLC. We can help you analyze your goals and needs and develop a planning strategy. Let’s connect today and start the conversation.

 

 

This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and is not state specific. The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting or specific advice for your situation. By providing your information, you give consent to be contacted about the possible sale of an insurance or annuity product. This information has been provided by a Licensed Insurance Professional and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting insurance professional. The statements and opinions expressed are those of the author and are subject to change at any time. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, presenting insurance professional makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, accounting, legal, tax or investment advice.

16110 - 2016/9/20

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