Many Washington, DC residents have a will, but that document is only effective after death. Two other estate planning documents are essential in order to provide for an individual in the event of incapacitation. A durable power of attorney and an advance medical directive should both be considered.
No one likes to think about not being in control of his or her mental faculties. However, as people live longer, the possibility of becoming incapacitated by conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia increases. Preparing for this eventuality provides some assurance that an individual's family can immediately begin taking care of him or her should something happen.
An advance medical directive lets family members know what life-saving procedures a person does or does not want under certain circumstances. Additionally, a trusted individual is appointed to make healthcare decisions on that person's behalf. Without this directive, family members are left to guess what an individual would want and may end up wasting precious time going to court to obtain the legal right to make these decisions.
A durable power of attorney allows someone the individual trusts to handle his or her financial affairs in the event of incapacitation. This person can be given as much or as little power as the person making the appointment is comfortable with. The agent can pay bills, sell assets as necessary and otherwise make financial decisions for the benefit of the incapacitated individual.
This trifecta of estate planning documents can give everyone involved peace of mind that a Washington, DC resident's wishes will be carried out under specific circumstances. Of course, additional documents can be added to these basic documents, depending on a person's needs and desires. However, without these three documents, family members could spend unnecessary time and money trying doing the best they can without any input from the person for whom they are trying to make decisions.
Source: Fox Business, "The Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes You Can Make", Kelly Trageser, April 7, 2014