Estate Planning isn’t just about what happens to your assets after you have passed. It is also about protecting yourself and your loved ones now! This includes having a plan for making critical decisions in the event you are unable to make them yourself. This can be from a critical medical condition, a terminal condition or other incapacity. As with all aspects of your Estate Plan, the time is now- to act while you are able to do so.
Unfortunately, if an illness or injury render you unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, it is then too late to begin this process.
If you don’t have a plan that expresses your wishes, your family may have to make medical decisions on your behalf or petition the Court for guidance, even going as far as having to get a Guardianship created and a Guardian appointed for you. Either way, there is absolutely no guarantee that the decisions made by a Court or a Guardian or even family members will be made the way you want to have them made, or by the person that you would have selected doing the choosing for you.
To ensure that your wishes are carried out and to ensure your family is spared the burden of guessing or worse, arguing about what you would have decided under unknowable circumstances, we suggest you put these wishes in writing. This means at a minimum, having a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and in all likelihood a Durable Power of Attorney.
All of these documents are known by many names in different places which sometimes lead to confusion. Regardless of the terminology, these documents serve critical purposes:
1. They guide your healthcare providers in the event you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious;
2. They allow you to appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf; and
3. They provide someone to make other decisions on your behalf with regard to your property and finances in the event you are incapacitated.
It is extremely important to put your plan into action. No matter how carefully you plan your day-to-day activities, no matter how careful you are, or what you do, Living Wills, Healthcare Directives, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Powers of Attorney are effective only if your documents are readily accessible, healthcare providers honor them and financial institutions or others dealing with your agent recognize them as being proper.
Especially in these times, it is important to have these documents prepared to meet the statutory requirements of Florida law. Your family deserves it!
Greg D. Crosslin is the Principal Attorney at the Law Office of Greg D. Crosslin, 3999 Commons Drive West, Suite D, in Destin. Call 850-650-7378 or visit www.destinlegal.com for more information.