Many Ohioans think of estate planning as having a Simple Will that controls the distribution of their assets after they pass. However, this would overlook many of the issues and decisions that need to be made at the end of your life. End-of-life decisions are based on your values and beliefs, and only you can take the guesswork out of decisions that may need to be made when you can’t speak for yourself. Who will make decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself? What treatments and care do you want? How will your care be paid for?
Having the proper legal documents in place is essential to a proper end-of-life plan. The three key documents are a Living Will, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Durable Financial Power of Attorney.
A Living Will allows you to properly document what kind of treatment you want, or don’t want, during a terminal illness. You would also be able to designate what persons should be contacted in an end-of-life situation. A very important distinction to understand is that a Living Will is not a DNR. A DNR must be discussed with and put in place by a medical professional.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney gives your designated agent the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. Be careful to make sure that your healthcare power of attorney includes a proper medical-information release.
A Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives your designated agent the authority to manage your finances, and make certain legal decisions, if you become incapacitated or simply want some help. A durable power of attorney can be immediate or springing, meaning the powers only go into effect when you become incapacitated. It is very important that this document be durable and remain effective after you become incapacitated.
If you have any of these documents in place you are ahead of the game, however remember, laws change. Having an attorney review these documents is critical to ensure that they conform to state law and are properly executed. What good is having the document if it will not be accepted?
End-of-life planning is not an easy topic to think about, or discuss. More often than not these conversations are put on the back burner and forgotten about, especially when we all think we are going to live forever. Unfortunately, one of the only guarantees in life is that we will not live forever. Even if you are currently healthy, something could happen in a blink of an eye that could change your situation. Having a proper plan in place is essential.