Estate planning is often equated with preparing for death. While a good estate plan certainly will determine what happens to your estate and legacy after you die, there are a number of vital estate planning documents that can impact your life before you pass away, especially concerning medical decisions. This article explains some of these key documents you need and why estate planning can be vital even when death is the last thing on your mind, including:
- What medical estate planning documents every North Carolinian should draft?
- What is the purpose of medical estate planning, and when will it be useful?
- How often should you review and update your medical estate planning documents?
What Is The Purpose Of Including Medical Documents In Estate Planning?
While most people might think of wills or even trusts when they hear estate planning, the truth is there are plenty of other vital documents involved that have nothing to do with handling your property after death.
Most notably, a complete estate plan should include documents that cover crucial decision-making in the event of your hospitalization or incapacitation.
What Medical Documents Do You Need As Part Of Your Medical Estate Plan?
There are two primary medical documents every estate plan should include. The healthcare power of attorney and a living will.
What Is A Healthcare Power Of Attorney?
The healthcare power of attorney is a document that designates someone to speak on your behalf to medical professionals if you cannot. Often, this will be a family member, someone who you trust to make the healthcare decisions for you.
Should that person not be available when needed, you can even add a second or third and more people in line should the first choice not be available.
Why Do You Need A Healthcare Power Of Attorney In North Carolina?
Imagine a scenario where a woman is in the hospital and is on her deathbed or undergoing major surgery. She is in a coma and cannot make decisions. Outside, her two adult children are bickering in the waiting room, disagreeing over what their mother would prefer and what to do.
By choosing in advance which one is empowered to make those decisions for you, a healthcare power of attorney avoids that scenario entirely. There is no bickering; it is clear in advance who makes that decision.
More importantly, even than avoiding conflict, your healthcare power of attorney helps speed up the process for medical professionals. The doctors will know exactly who to look towards for a decision in every eventuality.
What Is A Living Will?
The living will is a directive to the doctor if nobody is there to speak for you. In effect, it allows you to speak on your own behalf through the document to the doctor. You can have it registered with the Secretary of State and carry a card in your wallet that lets everyone know that you have such a document there.
Why Is A Living Will Important To Have In North Carolina Estate Planning?
Your living will allows you direct control over healthcare decisions and outcomes that you can anticipate. For example, it might also include a Do Not Resuscitate order to tell the doctors not to reanimate you if your heart stops.
This could be vital when facing difficult decisions, especially if you want to avoid forcing your family to make them. If you want to be kept alive at all costs or be allowed to pass away quickly, it is best to ensure those wishes are clearly laid out in a living will as part of your estate planning process.
An attorney can help you draft both types of documents, let you know what common concerns should be addressed in them, and help you update them when needed.
How Often Should You Review And Update Your Medical Records Or Documents?
Just as your financial and family situation can evolve, so too may your healthcare preferences. Reviewing your healthcare estate planning documents at least once every ten years is a good start, but really, they should be changed any time your situation changes.
For example, after a significant medical event has occurred or a change in your personal or family situation. The last thing you want is an ex deciding whether you live or die because you forgot to update your healthcare power of attorney!
A good general rule is to have a date on your calendar, maybe once every five years, just to check in with your attorney and make sure that your healthcare estate planning documents are still in line with your preferences and situation. But of course, if anything significant happens with your medical or financial situation, there is no reason to delay; contact your attorney right away to adjust them as needed. And if you do not have either set up, now is the best time to start because tomorrow might be too late. For guidance on how to set up essential North Carolina Estate Planning Medical Documents, contact our estate planning attorney today by calling (252) 371-0127.