Having taught estate planning topics and wealth management for 20 years, I felt compelled to write this article.
In the last few weeks, I have read some disturbing articles about people trying to deny experimental treatments to the dying.
Before you go to the hospital, hopefully you have given power of attorney, medical directives, or a living will to somebody. These forms can be produced by your lawyer and some states actually have downloadable “easy to use forms.”
Some states require important documents to be signed, witnessed and even notarized. After you have the forms completed, make sure somebody has access to the forms or knows where they are.
Here are the types of legal documents that can be helpful for you and your loved ones.
Healthcare Directives or Advance Directives are written documents and instructions to address future medical care in case you're unable to make decisions (unconscious, coma, or mentally incapacitated).
Living Wills are a type of advance healthcare directive that describes how a person wants emergency and/or end-of-life care to be managed. You can specify if you want life support or even experimental treatments. You can stipulate that you want no further care if you are legally "brain dead."
DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate form, is completed by a medical doctor or health care provider stipulating that a patient doesn’t wish to receive life-prolonging treatment if cardiac failure or brain death occurs. DNRs are often obtained before or at the hospital by patients with terminal illness, people opposed to certain life-prolonging measures and those who are at risk of respiratory or cardiac arrest.
POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment): In some states, POLST forms are typically a condensed version of your living will that doctors can use.
POA (Powers of Attorney): Most states permit a durable power of attorney that remains valid once signed until you die or revoke the document. These power allow an agent to act on your behalf. The individual named in a power of attorney to act on your behalf is typically referred to as the "agent" or your "attorney-in-fact." With valid powers of attorney, your designated agent can take any action stipulated in the document.
- A full POA give a person power over all of your legal affairs. Lawyers say that for medical concerns, we may need a durable power of attorney where the power of attorney continues after the client becomes disabled or incapacitated.
- A limited power of attorney can be specific to Health Care decisions. A limited Power of Attorney can also be customized to take effect only if you can speak for yourself. A health care POA would allow your specified family member(s) to be able to access your medical information or actively participate in decision making. A full/general power of attorney typically does not allow the attorney-in-fact to make any healthcare or medical decisions and thus, the Health Care POA is very useful.
- A limited Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions gives a person the authority to make legal and/or financial decisions on behalf of the patient but this would not be specific to health care decisions. After the person has died, the POA is no longer in force.
As a note, some states allow you to use these financial strategies for your loved ones.
- POD: Banks allow you to add another trusted name to your account. In this way, the other person has access to the money if something happens to you but they can take the money anytime without your permission. There is an alternative and you can make your bank account have a named beneficiary which is called a payable on death (POD) account. When you die, the POD beneficiary can access the money to help with your funeral and keep the rest.
- Beneficiary Designations: Make sure your beneficiary designations are the way you want them. A new child or new marriage changes everything. This pertains to chiefly to life insurance, pensions, trusts, and retirement accounts.
- TOD (Investment Accounts): Some states and investment firms allow you to put a TOD on the account. That means TOD Transfer on Death which is “a provision for a brokerage account which allows the account's assets to pass directly to an intended beneficiary after the death of the owner. Again, making sure your loved ones have access to cash upon your death for your burial and funeral.
Lastly, Do You Have a Written Will or Last Testament?
If not, you may want to have an updated will or testament. There are qualified lawyers in all 50 states that can help you. Many can help you online and you don’t even need to go to their offices.
The purpose of this document is to assist you and your children and family to best help you and abide by your wishes.
Disclaimer: No legal or financial advice given herein. Before making any medical or financial decision, please consult with a qualified lawyer or physician.
George Mentz JD MBA CWM Chartered Wealth Manager ® is a licensed attorney and CEO of GAFM ® global education, which is an ISO 29990 Certified professional development company operating in over 50 nations. Mentz is an award-winning author and advisory board member to several companies around the world in education, charities, and FinTech Companies.
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