A STRONG ESTATE PLAN NEEDS MORE THAN JUST A WILL
BY ANNAMARIE GULINO GENTILE, ESQ. AND FRANK OSWALD, ESQ.
In the wake of the global health crisis, hard-working New Yorkers have been forced to ask themselves difficult questions. More than ever, families are beginning to worry about unexpected health complications, and how to weigh decisions should a medical emergency strike. The key is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney prior to an emergency to draft a robust estate plan, which can provide peace of mind when the situation gets tough.
When thinking of estate planning, your first thoughts may turn to a last will and testament but a will is only one piece of the puzzle. Since the provisions in a will do not have any effect until a person dies, a good estate plan will also provide a detailed roadmap for situations where you are alive but are either temporarily unable to make your own decisions or permanently unable to communicate your wishes. This is where several other estate planning documents come into play, such as a healthcare proxy (HCP), living will, and power of attorney (POA).
When you name a healthcare proxy, you’re allowing someone you trust to make important medical decisions on your behalf when you’re not able to speak for yourself. The HCP will be able to view your medical records and request a specific type of medical treatment when you’re hospitalized. Especially when your relatives are torn over the best course of action to take in the event of an emergency, the HCP will have the final say.
While the HCP document allows an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf, the individual named in your power of attorney will be able to stand in your shoes for all other purposes, including (but not limited to) managing your finances. In this sense, the HCP and the POA work in tandem to ensure that your wishes are met, even when you cannot communicate them. While you can name the same individual to serve as both your financial agent and your healthcare agent, the decision of who will best fill each role is yours. Though no one wants to think about reaching the end of life, a living will allows you to express your wishes for treatment (or the withholding of it) if you are determined to be incurably ill with no hope of recovery. The living will can address care such as pain management and all types of life support. Above all else, a living will is a reflection of your values and wishes, and allows you to communicate them to your family and healthcare practitioners before an emergency, to relieve them of the burden of having to make difficult choices.
Angiuli & Gentile, LLP, Attorneys at Law
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