Estate planning is often viewed as a purely financial endeavor. However, there is a health care component as well if you want to be comprehensively prepared for all of the eventualities of aging. It would be ideal if we all passed on without ever having to experience any gradual decline, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. People are living longer than ever, and one of the most surprising demographic trends of our time is the fact that senior citizens are the fastest growing segment of the population. Beyond this, the “oldest old,” which is a term used to describe people 85 years of age and older is the most rapidly expanding subset of seniors.
When you reach these advanced ages the possibility of incapacity is going to become more and more realistic. Planning for it is simply the responsible thing to do, and it can be done by the execution of a few key documents. With a living will you can record your medical preferences so your wishes are known if you are unable to make these decisions in real time at some point. The issue that is central to most living wills is that of whether or not you want to be kept alive on life support should you fall into a terminal condition with no reasonable hope for recovery.
Many people will also include a durable medical power of attorney and a durable financial power of attorney. With these instruments you name attorneys-in-fact that are empowered to make decisions in your behalf in the event of your incapacity. You may want to appoint one person as your health care proxy and another to act as your financial attorney-in-fact depending on the specific strengths of each individual.
Taking the time to put an incapacity plan in place is good for you, but it is also the responsible thing to do for your family. You are letting them know exactly how you would like to proceed rather than forcing them to wrestle with these potentially difficult decisions on their own.
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