While a last will is a fundamental component of virtually any life plan, it is not the only document that most people need. In fact, even our "basic" estate plan incorporates several documents that serve a variety of different purposes. However, this does not mean that "basic" estate planning is complicated. If anything, the use of multiple documents serves to segment the issues and help individuals and couples make informed decisions about each of the key aspects of the life planning process. #BecauseLifeIsComplicatedEnough®
So, what documents should you use to put together your life plan? Here is a brief introduction to three basic life planning documents: (i) designation of a health care surrogate, (ii) living will, and (iii) designation of a pre-need guardian.
1. Designation of a Health Care Surrogate
If you get sick or injured and are unable to communicate, who will communicate with your doctors on your behalf? This is an extremely important question, yet it is one that often goes overlooked during the life planning process. In Florida, the person who will make medical decisions for your is known as your health care surrogate.
When choosing a health care surrogate, it is important to consider all of the options you have available, and it is imperative that you speak with your chosen surrogate to make sure they are comfortable taking on the role. Unlike a living will, a health care surrogate designation comes into play any time you lack the capacity to make decisions on your own. How much guidance do you want to provide? When should your surrogate be able to make decisions about end-of-life care? These are just two of the many important questions you will need to answer.
2. Living Will
A living will is your opportunity to indicate whether or not you desire life-prolonging procedures after a doctor has determined one of three different conditions is present:
- Terminal condition;
- End-stage condition, and;
- Persistent vegetative state.
The importance of a living will, and what can happen without one, became the focus of the nation in 2005 with Terri Schiavo. While this legal battle was highly publicized, it is far from a unique situation. Without this important component of a life plan, your family may be subject to being placed in the same impossible situation as Schiavo and her family.
While your last will allows you to remain in control of the distribution of your assets, and outlines your wishes after you die; the purpose of a living will is to ensure you remain in control of what type of care you receive upon the occurrence of a specific condition. It also relieves family from bearing the heavy burden of making difficult medical decisions.
3. Designation of a Pre-Need Guardian
A designation of pre-need guardian is a life planning tool that is used to appoint a guardian for your minor children in the event that you become incapacitated during your lifetime. While this is obviously a document that you never want to have to use, if and when it becomes necessary to use it, planning in advance will protect your children and other family members from an extremely challenging situation.
This important planning tool is also vital for adults. This allows an adult to have the essential final say over who their guardian will be, if needed. While no one hopes to become incapacitated, as we age and dementia and Alzheimer's disease become more prevalent, a guardian becomes more likely. Not only does this permit an individual to select who they would like to serve as their guardian, but they can also state who they do not want to serve as guardian.
Are You Ready to Discuss Your Life Plan?
If you would like more information about the documents you should include in a complete life plan, we encourage you to get in touch. For a confidential consultation with attorney Mark F. Moss, contact us online today.
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