SIX “MUST HAVE” DOCUMENTS OF YOUR ESTATE PLAN
As discussed in this previous blog post overview, there are six documents that should be part of most everyone’s estate plan:
- Estate planning questionnaire
- Power of attorney for health care
- Power of attorney for financial matters
- Disposition of personal property
- Disposition of final remains
Last blog post, I explained the basics of a will.
In this post, let’s discuss the benefits and important aspects of a health care power of attorney.
WHAT IS A HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A health care power of attorney (“POA”) is a legal instrument that allows you to select the person (called an “agent”) that you want to make health care decisions for you, if and when you become unable to make such decisions for yourself.
WHAT TYPES OF DECISIONS CAN BE MADE BY A HEALTH CARE POA?
A health care POA can govern any decision related to your health that you want to address. A health care POA may include decisions related to organ donation, hospitalization, treatment in a nursing home, home health care, psychiatric treatment, end-of-life (i.e., the use of life support), and more.
WHEN WOULD I USE A HEALTH CARE POA?
A health care POA is used when you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself. Your agent will be able to make decisions for you based on the information you provided in your health care POA. Equally important, your agent will be able to access your medical records, communicate with your health care providers, and so on.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T HAVE A HEALTH CARE POA?
If you don’t have a health care POA, and you should become disabled to the point where you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, your health care provider (say, a hospital) will do everything possible to save your life.
Your family, without guidance from you, will be faced with agonizing decisions. Your family members may not be able to agree on how to handle your medical care, or you might disagree with the decision your family ultimately makes.
If your family can’t agree on a course of action, they would have to go to an Iowa Court and have a conservator/guardian appointed for you. It may, or may not, be someone you would have chosen. Further, the conservator/guardian may make decisions you wouldn’t have made.
This is all very complicated, time consuming, and expensive. A health care POA simplifies this process by giving you control over how decisions are made for you and allowing you to choose who will carry out your wishes. Best of all, it leaves your family with peace of mind.
IS THERE A “ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL” POA FOR HEALTH CARE?
No! All Iowans are special and unique, and so are each individual’s issues and concerns. Consequently, this article is presented for informational purposes only, not as legal advice. Please consult your lawyer for personal advice.
DO I NEED OTHER ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS IN ADDITION TO A HEALTH CARE POA?
Yes, definitely! (It’s even essential for college students.) There are six “must-have” estate planning documents that make up a complete, comprehensive estate plan. (Some people may also need to consider a trust.)
Do you have a health care POA currently? And do you have a complete estate plan? Why or why not? I’d be most interested in any thoughts or comments. Email me anytime at email@example.com or call 515-371-6077.
*OK, not everything. But many things, let’s say, an excellent start.