One of the most essential components of any estate plan is advance directives. These documents can help protect a person’s interests in the event that they become unable to manage their own affairs. However, advance directives are not documents you can simply create and forget about. If they are not up to date, you could face significant legal issues later on.
What Are Advance Directives?
“Advance Directives” is the term that broadly refers to a set of documents that give instructions to others on how your legal, financial, and medical affairs should be handled if you become unable to handle them yourself. Typically, the need for Advance Directives results from illness or injury but can also be the result of conditions such as dementia. The most common examples of Advance Directives include:
- Power of Attorney:
- A power of attorney grants someone else the right to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf should you become unable to make these decisions yourself. This can allow the agent to handle things like pay your bills, manage your investments, or even represent you in court if necessary.
- Health Care Proxy:
- A health care proxy is similar to a power of attorney, except it grants someone authority over your medical affairs, not financial affairs. Someone designated as your health care proxy can give permission to perform medical tests, give informed consent for treatments and procedures, and even approve palliative care in extreme circumstances.
- Living Will:
- A living will is a document that explains the type of medical procedures you would, or would not, approve of being done to you if you are unable to speak on your own behalf. For example, a very common part of a living will is a “Do Not Resuscitate” order (also called a DNR), which prevents doctors from reviving you if your heart or breathing stops.
Why Are These Documents Important?
Advance Directives are important because they ensure that you will be taken care of when you can no longer take care of yourself. Without these documents, your loved ones will not be able to handle these matters if you become incapacitated. In many cases, this may mean seeking out a legal guardianship in court which adds additional costs and complications that would not be necessary if you had them in place.
What Happens if They Are Not Up to Date?
In the event that you have Advance Directives that are out of date, you are risking the possibility that your Advance Directives may no longer accurately reflect your wishes. You may grant power of attorney to someone who you no longer are on good terms with or you may have a living will that does not follow your current beliefs and desires. An outdated Advance Directive may assign a power of attorney or health care proxy to someone who is no longer available to take on those responsibilities. That is why you should periodically update your estate plan, including your Advance Directives, to best reflect your wants and needs.
If you need an experienced attorney to prepare your Advance Directives, contact the attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 or visit our contact page.