Estate Planning: Everything you were afraid to ask about Estates and Trusts

The Advanced Health Care Directive, Do I really need one?

One of many famous Roman proverbs says “People fear what they cannot understand and hate that which they cannot conquer.” This sentiment seems to hold especially true when it comes to estate planning. The mere words “estate planning” tend to invoke fear among the majority of people. This is in large part due to the vast size and importance of the task which along with widespread misunderstanding make estate planning appear to be a more substantial undertaking to “conquer” than it really is..

As a consequence, a substantial number of people fail to protect themselves and their loved ones…

The process of estate planning is fairly simple. It largely consists of organizing and preparing property and interests so they can be legally taken care of and/or distributed in times when the owner can no longer express their desires due to the unforseen such as disability or death.

Many frequently asked questions pertaining to estate planning revolve around establishing a plan for times when others would have to make difficult decisions. For example, people often ask how to officially declare they do not want medical care and treatment in cases where injury or illness will prevent recovery beyond that of a vegetative state or an otherwise functional quality of life.

Frequently referred to as one of the singular most important parts of estate planning, an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) names health care agents you implicitly trust to manage your care and make decisions if you are no longer able to do so. Any adult recognized as mentally competent to make personal decisions is permitted to establish an AHCD and due to their importance, anyone over the age of 18 should sign a professionally prepared document.

An AHCD covers everything from continuing care decisions in terms of terminal illness or persistent vegetative states with no reasonable expectation of recovery to whether or not you wish to make anatomic donations. For expecting mothers it can also state whether medical intervention should keep the mother alive (in the event of a catastrophic health care event) until the time the baby can be birthed.

Without this document, these decisions may be determined in  court through a guardianship case, a scenario most people try to avoid.

It is important to remember, as long as you are competent you can and should make all of your medical decisions. Problems can and do arise when other family members are uncertain as to your health care instructions or who is to give those instructions. In reality, disagreements among people are inevitable. They are even more serious when they revolve around matters of life and death. What family members may judge to be in your best interest does not always coincide with your personal beliefs and the health care decisions you would make A properly drafted AHCD should resolve any potential future confusion.

Remember failing to plan is planning to fail.

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