Most people’s estate plans focus almost entirely on who they want to leave their property to when they die. Wills allocate property, while trusts can help people avoid estate taxes or the loss of property to creditors. That is far from all that an estate plan can do.
You can also create protections now that will take effect if you become incapacitated in the future. Including the right documents in your estate plan can protect your wishes for your medical care when you are at your most vulnerable.
There are ways to give people authority and access to your records
Typically, someone’s spouse can make medical decisions on their behalf if they can’t speak for themselves. If a person is a minor, their parents can make decisions for their care. If you want someone other than your spouse to make those decisions for you, you will need to empower them with special documents.
A medical power of attorney can authorize someone to make decisions about your health care, as can a health care proxy. You can also execute HIPAA documents that allow the person in question access to your private medical information.
An advance directive will give people direction
Having someone with the authority to make choices for you does little good if they don’t know what treatment you want to receive or refuse to ever undergo. Preferences about everything from organ donation and blood transfusion to life support and pain control can be part of your advance directive.
The combination of documents recording your wishes and those that give people the authority to act on your behalf can help ensure that if a stroke or a car crash leaves you in a coma, other people can take action that reflects your personal medical preferences. This is a critical part of the estate planning process.