A storm came through Chicago today, with a lot of lightning. Lightning strikes quickly and without notice. Accidents and illness do too. There are three very basic documents that you should have in place, so that your choices can be carried out if you are not able to articulate them.
1. The power of attorney for property.
This document allows a trusted person that you designate to act as your agent if you can not act for yourself with respect to business and financial affairs. Some examples of this include attending to business and monetary transactions, maintaining accounts, and operating property, such as for rental purposes. In a period of unexpected disability, your agent can assist in keeping these sorts of affairs in order.
2. The power of attorney for healthcare.
As the name implies, this document allows a trusted person that you designate to act as your agent if you can not act for yourself with respect to healthcare decisions. Among other things, it allows you to designate what care you would want and what you would not accept. And it allows you to specify whether the length or the quality of life is your primary objective.
3. The living will.
This document, in the event of terminal illness or incurable injury, allows a doctor to withdraw life-sustaining measures that are artificially postponing death, and instead administer measures to maximize comfort. The purpose is to articulate a choice to avoid being trapped in a painful situation prolonged indefinitely.
The law provides certain defaults, but they may not be the ones you would choose. Getting relief once an emergency or disability has already occurred can involve a long trek through the courts, resulting both in legal costs as well as the health care or financial costs affiliated with maintaining the status quo. And should a disaster hit, these costs can quickly rise into the thousands.
Clearly, these documents preserve values that can be deeply personal. Whatever one's choices, it is important to declare them rather than let the default choices provided by state law prevail.
For personal estate planning, the Will, rather than the documents above, comes to mind for many people. The Will is certainly an important part of every estate plan, but it does not become operative until the person who executed it has died. Powers of attorney and a living will protect your interests and choices while you are alive. If you do not have them in place, then make an appointment today to secure your future.
We assist clients in Chicago with real estate, business law, and asset protection matters.