Long-term care planning is not just for the elderly. It is important if you want to try to safeguard your medical and financial decisions for the future. It is always a good idea to create the following documents, called “advance directives,” to make your wishes known.
This document specifies who you would want to handle your business affairs and make legal decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. This person, called your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” would be responsible for paying your bills, managing your investments and property, making business decisions, handling transactions, and creating or changing trusts, among other things. A “durable power-of-attorney” takes effect as soon as you sign it, but can be designed to take effect when you become unable to make decisions for yourself. If you do not name someone to be your agent and you become incapacitated, the court will appoint a guardian to make these decisions for you, and your family could end up paying guardianship fees and expenses.
Health Care Proxy
This is a document in which you choose who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. Your health care agent must sometimes make these decisions at the spur of the moment, taking into consideration your living will (if you have one) and the wishes you made known to them during your lifetime. Think carefully and choose someone who will keep your best interests at heart and is capable of making hard decisions under emotional stress. This person may not be your spouse or even a relative, who may try to make decisions based on what they want if the situation is terminal.
Also known as an “advance medical directive,” a living will is a document in which you state your preference for the life-sustaining medical intervention you would or would not want if you are faced with a devastating accident or illness. A living will is technically not binding in Massachusetts but can be a very helpful tool when a hospital, court, or when family members are trying to make decisions for you. Sometimes circumstances cannot be foreseen, may be interpreted differently by different doctors, or a living will may not apply to a certain situation. In these cases a health care proxy is a valuable tool to have.
Contact us if you have questions about long-term care planning or when to use advanced directives.
*A Note for Senior Citizens
If you are an older adult and are planning for long-term care, you should also be aware of the following terms:
A Guardian is a person responsible for your general well-being, finances, legal and property rights, and help with health care decisions (such as creating a power-of-attorney or choosing a nursing home) if you are not able to manage these yourself. A Conservator is someone who manages your financial affairs, including collecting assets and income and paying bills.
Generally, it is best to choose someone to have power-of-attorney early on, as the process is inexpensive and private, while the process of having a judge appoint a stranger to act as your guardian or conservator is a time-consuming, expensive, and public process.
Visit the Living Trust Network's website to read more about the different types of trusts.
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