A complete estate plan spans lots of areas. In addition to estate planning for wealth distribution, a thorough plan will also address issues like planning for incapacity and end-of-life planning, among other things. With a well thought out plan that includes a healthcare power of attorney and an advance directive, you can be sure that your objectives and your values are respected and honored in the way that end-of-life care is provided to you.
Most everyone associates estate planning with “the distribution of all my assets when I die.” While this is an essential objective and a central aspect of any estate plan, but a complete estate does more than that. Your properly structred plan will not only allow you to state your goals regarding your wealth, it will also communicate your desires regarding your end-of-life care.
Chances are, you have spent a lifetime looking after the well-being of your loved ones. Your end-of-life planning within your estate plan is one more opportunity to do just that. Specifically, the healthcare power of attorney and the advance directive documents in your plan allow you to take control and to express your end-of-life wishes to your loved ones and to your medical care providers. In some states, these declarations are covered in these two separate documents, in other states one document covers both. This document (or documents) can allow you to state the circumstances under which you would like life-extending medical provided or withdrawn, and also allows you designate a person, your “proxy,” who holds the authority to make medical decisions for you when you cannot speak for yourself.
With a complete plan, you can have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have communicated your values and your objectives in valid, legal documents. With these clear instructions in place, you can also save your loved ones from having to make potentially heart-wrenching decisions about your care with no input from you. Making these decisions without knowing your preferences can lead to both severe disagreements among family members, as well as the potential of guilt on the part of the person who ultimately becomes the decision-maker.
Perhaps one of your goals is to avoid being a “burden” to your family. Your plan can make it clear to family and doctors alike the exact criteria under which you desire to continue receiving care, and when you would like that care to be withdrawn. You can also dictate the specifics regarding your care, such as whether or not to continue receiving things like painkillers, hydration or nutrition. On the flip side, perhaps your closely-held personal feelings or religious values dictate that doctors should continue doing everything possible to prolong your life regardless of your condition. For people in this position, a plan can be an important helper, again making sure that loved ones and doctors all know how you would like your care managed.
When you are experiencing your final illness, it will certainly be an extremely painful time for your loved ones. Nothing is going to stop that pain. However, a complete estate plan with detailed end-of-life planning can at least make things a little easier for your family in a time of great stress.