If you are thinking about estate planning but finding the process a bit overwhelming, you could use the step-by-step approach starting with the basics.
Among these are durable powers of attorney (POA), which provide healthcare and financial benefits and peace of mind at any age.
The medical POA
A medical or healthcare POA allows the agent you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. Select someone you trust as your agent because he or she will have the legal authority to:
- Choose which doctors and other healthcare providers will treat you
- Determine the kind of medical care you are to receive, including hospital care, surgery, home healthcare and more
- Determine where you will live, such as your own home, assisted living or nursing home
- Make decisions about basic tasks, such as what you eat
Along with your healthcare POA, a living will can provide medical personnel with your end-of-life wishes. This document can explain whether or not you want your life to be artificially prolonged if you face a terminal illness or vegetative state.
The POA for finances
The agent you appoint for the financial POA will be able to access your bank accounts to pay your bills, make investment decisions on your behalf, manage your property and file your taxes. During your lifetime, your agent can also assist you with day-to-day financial tasks.
The proactive approach
Keep in mind that the potential for some form of dementia increases with age. Therefore, it is a good idea to prepare your healthcare and financial POAs as soon as possible. For these and all other estate planning documents to be legal, you, as the principal, must be mentally competent when signing.