Creating a will is vital to ensuring that your estate is administered in accordance with your wishes upon your death. Without it, decisions about how to distribute your assets will be made by the state, which could mean your loved ones are denied the inheritance you otherwise would have bequeathed to them.
Wills serve other important roles as well, such as giving you the ability to designate a potential guardian to care for your minor children if you die. Nonetheless, far too many people believe a will is all they need. Creating a will is an important first step to the estate planning process, but there are some very big reasons you need to take the planning process much further than a simple will, particularly because a will only goes into effect when you actually die.
So, what happens if you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself? This aspect of estate planning is consistently neglected, but the fact is, an accident could occur at any moment, and you need to be prepared.
Below we have outlined five essential estate planning documents that go beyond a simple will. Please keep in mind, this blog is not intended as legal advice for your specific situation. Everyone’s estate planning circumstances are unique, and you should always consult with a skilled estate planning attorney like Carolyn Duncan to ensure your goals and needs will be met.
1) Medical Durable Power of Attorney
If you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, who will have the legal authority to make important decisions about your medical care and treatment? In Colorado, even your spouse is not automatically authorized to make such decisions for you, which is why you need to set up a medical durable power of attorney. This document, which is not included in your will, allows you to designate who has the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
2) Financial Durable Power of Attorney
Similar to a medical power of attorney, the financial durable power of attorney allows you to designate who can manage your financial affairs if you are incapacitated and unable to do so. If you are in a coma, someone will need to continue paying your bills, right? And perhaps, in order to pay for your care, your family may need to sell off some of your assets. However, they would be unable to do so without a financial power of attorney in place.
3) HIPAA Release
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was created to help protect your privacy and ensure that only people who are vital to your care have access to your health care information. This also means, however, that your loved ones may not be allowed to be told information about your condition and care. In order to authorize your care provider to share details about your health with your loved ones, you need to create a HIPAA release that specifies to whom they can release the information.
4) Living Will
Have you ever thought about what you would want the doctors to do if you were declared brain dead following a car accident? What if you were terminally ill and incapacitated as a result of the illness? Would you want the doctors to do all they can to keep you alive, or would you prefer that they cease treatment in such scenarios? These decisions are not covered by your simple will, so you need to create a living will to specify your wishes with regard to end-of-life treatment.
5) Estate Organizer
An estate organizer is an essential tool that compiles all vital information and documents regarding your estate planning in one place for your loved ones to access if you are incapacitated. This could include life insurance information, your living will, your medical and financial powers of attorney, and much more. From a practical standpoint, you may have all the right legal documents in order to ensure your wishes are fulfilled if you are incapacitated, but if your family cannot find them then what good will these documents do?
To get started planning your estate, or to update and make adjustments to your existing estate planning documents, please contact the law office of Duncan Legal PC today.