Gregory S. DuPont
Advance Directives for Your Future Care
Estate planning traditionally focuses on minimizing taxes and directing the disposition of assets after death. However, as you prepare for the future, you may also want to consider your needs before death. Advance directives are legal instructions that express your wishes regarding financial and health care decisions in the event that you become unable to communicate them.
A durable power of attorney grants authority to another person to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf, even in the event of mental incapacity. The powers granted can be broad or limited in scope, covering such areas as insurance, investments, retirement plans, government benefits, and general money management.
In contrast, a health care proxy appoints an agent to make health care decisions. In addition, a living will is a set of instructions for a health care provider, stipulating the extent to which measures should be taken (consistent with state statutes) to maintain your life. Both directives come into play only when you are unable to make your own health care decisions.
Advance directives are essential estate planning tools for everyone, regardless of age. In the absence of such documents, court intervention (with the accompanying time and expense) may be necessary to carry out your financial and health care decisions.