Many District of Columbia residents think of estate planning only in terms of death. In fact, estate planning is not only used to plan how assets will be distributed to beneficiaries after a person has died. A detailed estate plan can also be used to plan for unforeseen accidents, illnesses or mental impairment.
If you don’t let your family know your wishes in terms of medical treatment while you are of sound mind, there can be severe consequences. Families often fight bitterly over decisions about medical treatment when their loved one’s final wishes haven’t been made clear. These are some of the most important estate planning documents that you should have:
Powers of attorney
A power of attorney appoints someone to step in and make crucial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. You may decide to appoint one trusted person to serve under both your medical and financial powers of attorney, or you may appoint two different people.
When you set up a medical power of attorney, sometimes called a health care proxy, you should make sure that this person has clear instructions about your medical wishes. Providing these instructions in written or video form is best.
A living will is a legal document that instructs your family about your medical wishes. Some of the issues that are often covered in a living will include:
- Life support
- Do not resuscitate orders
- Organ donation
- Hospice care
Your finances will be important for your overall well-being if you become temporarily incapacitated or permanently impaired. By setting up a living trust, you can help to prevent your financial assets from being mismanaged. A living trust may also be used to manage your bills and financial obligations if you are unable to do so yourself.