Too often, people fail to appoint substitute decision-makers and make their wishes known in an estate plan. This oversight can result in messy legal disputes if a person is incapacitated and needs someone else to make decisions related to their personal, medical and financial care.
To ensure someone you trust has the authority to make decisions on your behalf, you would be wise to have certain protections in place.
A living will
A living will or advance directive is a document that spells out the medical treatment you want and do not want to receive. Depending on the documentation you have, you can:
- Direct medical workers and decision-makers to provide or withhold life-prolonging treatments
- Specify your wishes for palliative care
- Specify parties who should or should not make medical decisions for you
Making these decisions yourself in advance can come as a great relief to those who would have to make these choices without you.
A durable power of attorney
A durable power of attorney authorizes a person to act on your behalf, often in cases of financial or business-related matters. This person can also sign documents in your name and enter into legal agreements for you.
When people pass away, an estate executor or personal representative will need to finalize that person’s affairs. This role can involve paying taxes, notifying creditors and distributing property.
Individuals can name their executor in their will, or the courts will appoint someone. If you leave the decision up to the courts, they may put someone you or your loved ones do not know, like or trust in charge of these sensitive matters.
Without these documents in place, your loved ones can wind up facing legal challenges and arguments over your care.
You may not want to think about the hardship others could face if you suffer an accident or illness that leaves you unable to make decisions for yourself. However, the fact is that this upsetting scenario becomes a reality for many Indiana families. Taking steps to provide direction to those navigating this painful experience can be a critical component of your legacy.