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Forward Thinking Now for Urgent Needs Later

Forward Thinking Now for Urgent Needs Later


No one wants to think about the practical problems that can be created by a serious illness, but bear with me for a moment and give this some thought. As I’m sure you know, if there was ever a time to think about this, it is now.

     If you become unable to express your intentions concerning medical decisions or financial decisions because an illness has incapacitated you, the people caring for you are placed in the very difficult position of trying to imagine what your wishes would be. That is an enormously stressful situation in which to put a family member and/or loved one. 

     This can be avoided by the use of two relatively simple documents: (i) a health care proxy; and (ii) a special durable power of attorney. 

     The health care proxy designates a person to make essential medical decisions for you. You may have heard of a document called a living will. A living will is an expression of your wishes with respect to medical decisions, but it does not generally designate a person to effectuate those decisions. We typically incorporate that expression of wishes in the health care proxy, but the proxy gives someone authority to express and act upon those wishes. This is more effective in dealing directly with doctors and hospitals and it enables a person to have the power to act quickly in what can be a fast moving and fluid situation. It is a large responsibility to place upon a person and the person given that power must understand the nature of it.

     The special durable power of attorney is the non-medical version of the proxy. It grants to someone the ability to deal with the essential elements of your life that you would deal with if you could: paying bills, making important strategic decisions and plans. This is a “springing” power that only comes into effect once you have been incapacitated and cannot deal with your affairs yourself.

     Taken together, these documents give those close to you the ability to make important decisions to assist in your care and manage your life, to enable you to recover and so that when you recover, everything that needed to be dealt with has been addressed.

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