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Advanced Directives...Consider the alternative

Many people think about preparing for the "what if's" but never actually do anything about it. People, like myself, believe there's always tomorrow. 

However, as a probate attorney, I am often faced with the harsh reality that people don't always get a tomorrow...at least not one they were hoping for.

There are four advanced directives that our office recommends everyone have "just in case." I always tell people to think of these documents as insurance; if you have them, you may never need them, but not having them could be a very costly mistake.

Here's a brief description of the different advanced directives:

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) authorizes a person to act on your behalf in financial matters. The POA gives them standard rights as your "attorney-in-fact" but there are additional rights that you as the principal get to choose whether you wish to empower someone to act in such situations.

Designation of Healthcare Surrogate

A designation of healthcare surrogate (HCS) authorizes a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if it is ever determined by doctors that you are not able to make these decisions yourself due to a medical situation or illness. The HCS we prepare includes a HIPAA release and authorization so in the event of your incapacity, the person you have chosen to act for you may speak to doctors and they can release medical records to that person if it is necessary.

Living Will

The Living Will serves as your statement that you do not want your life to be artificially prolonged. In the document, you make certain choices regarding the timing of when medical treatments will be suspended in the event you have a terminal illness, an end stage condition or are in a persistent vegetative state and your attending doctor and another consulting physician have determined that there is no reasonable medical probability of your recovery from such condition.

Designation of Pre-need Guardian

This is a form that is not always needed but could be beneficial if you are faced with an issue where you become mentally incapacitated and require a legal guardian. This is more of a bridge to the alternative to advanced directives. This document names the person you desire to be appointed as your legal guardian. Even more importantly sometimes, this document where you can name people you do not want to be your legal guardian.

The alternative...

Having these documents prepared now can save your family from the stress and expense of a formal guardianship proceeding later. If you do not make the decision of whom you would choose to manage your finances and healthcare before you become incapacitated, the state gets to decide for you. A guardianship is a lengthy, stressful and expensive process for all who are involved but can be avoided by contacting our office and having one of our attorneys prepare these documents and other estate planning documents that can assist with preparing you and your family for the "what if's."

However, if you have a loved one who does not have these documents and they suffer from dementia or other illness that affects their mental capacity and you believe a guardianship may be necessary, please call our office and Attorney Rogers will be happy to assist you to minimize the stress that often accompanies a person who is mentally incapacitated.

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