Incapacitation can happen unexpectedly, making it crucial to plan ahead to ensure your plans do what you want and your affairs are handled properly. By creating specific legal documents, you can appoint trusted individuals to make decisions on your behalf, both for your medical care and your financial matters.
In this article, we will identify three common incapacity documents that everyone should consider having: the will, the health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC), and the durable power of attorney (DPOA).
Three Common Incapacity Documents That You Need to Know
Generally, a will is a legal document that coordinates the disposition of property or assets on your death. It can also provide evidence of your wishes for medical care in the event that you are unable to communicate them yourself. For example, a will can be used to make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatments. By clearly stating your preferences in the document, you provide some guidance to your medical professionals and loved ones. In most states, living will take effect under certain circumstances, such as when you are terminally ill or severely injured.
2. Health-Care Proxy/Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC)
A health care proxy, also known as a durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC), is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This person is typically referred to as a health care agent or health care representative.
Choosing a trusted individual as your healthcare agent is crucial. This person should understand your wishes for medical treatment and be capable of advocating for you. By appointing a healthcare agent, you ensure that your medical decisions align with your values and preferences. It is essential to have open and honest conversations with your chosen agent to ensure they fully understand your wishes.
3. Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)
A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf for legal or financial matters. This person, known as an agent or attorney in fact (AIF), will have the authority to handle your affairs according to your instructions in the DPOA document. In contrast, a “springing” POA generally goes into effect once certain conditions in the POA document have been met.
By executing a DPOA, you may reduce the need for court intervention in the event of your incapacity. It is important to choose someone you trust implicitly, as they will have significant decision-making power. Rules and requirements vary with each state, so be sure to check your state’s laws regarding the validity of your estate documents.
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By appointing a healthcare agent and creating a durable power of attorney, you can ensure that someone you trust is able to make decisions for you if you’re unable to do so. This can give you peace of mind and help ensure that your wishes are followed.
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