Advance directives are an important part of any estate plan, but not everyone has them in place for their future. As a result, they may not be ready for a potential circumstances that could arise requiring their loved ones scrambling to deal with the situations over which no one has control or authority.
What Are Advance Directives?
Advance directives are documents that can determine who will handle your affairs and how your affairs will be handled in the event that you become unable to care for yourself. These advance directives are a power of attorney, health care proxy and a living will. These documents authorize individuals to make financial and healthcare decisions for you. Advance directives are considered legally binding, meaning that banking institutions, your doctors and caregivers must follow your wishes laid out in these documents.
Why Do You Need Advance Directives?
You need to have advance directives because they ensure your affairs will be handled should you become incapacitated by illness or injury, or if you become otherwise unable to care for yourself. For example, a power of attorney will grant someone the ability to pay your bills and sign documents on your behalf. A health care proxy can grant someone the power to make healthcare and medical decisions when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. A living will can dictate the type of medical procedures you consent to, or can restrict doctors from performing certain procedures (such as a “do not resuscitate” order, also known as a DNR).
What Happens if You Do Not Have Advance Directives?
If you do not have advance directives in place, your loved ones will need to seek legal guardianship through the courts to be able to care for you and make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This is a complicated and expensive process that may leave someone you do not trust in charge of your care and finances. It also means you may be resuscitated or intubated against your will, when you would not have consented to those procedures if you had the ability to speak on your own behalf.
What Should You Do?
The best way to prevent these scenarios is to plan ahead. That means you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling estate law matters, who can advise you and provide you with legal options. An attorney can help you to develop an estate plan that suits your needs, and ensure you will be taken care of if you ever become unable to handle your personal or financial affairs.
Whether for yourself or for a loved one, estate and elder law planning can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing. The legal professionals at Hobson-Williams, P.C. will advise you on the options available to you, and help you establish a plan that best suits your needs. Call (718) 210-4744 or visit our contact page to speak to one of our attorneys and learn how Hobson-Williams, P.C. can help you gain the peace of mind that comes from being prepared for the future.