For most of our lives, it’s even more likely that we’ll become disabled than die. If you suffer an illness or injury that leaves you unable to care for yourself, it’s vital to have a plan in place to enable someone else to care for you.
There are two general categories of care that you might need.
If you can’t communicate your own healthcare wishes, either temporarily or permanently, there are several documents you’ll want to have in place to enable someone else to navigate healthcare decisions for you and ensure you get the care you deserve.
Healthcare Power of Attorney – Names someone to make medical decisions for you.
Living Will – Expresses your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions in the event you have a non-reversible, terminal condition, two doctors are willing two certify in writing that there is no hope of recovery, and you’ve been unconscious or in a coma for at least 7 days.
Universal HIPAA Release – Authorizes any and all medical providers to share your medical information with the individuals you name in the document. Without this, even your spouse may not be able to call the hospital to find out if you are there, or what room number you’re in.
If you’re disabled, either physically or mentally, you’ll need to have a plan in place to enable someone else to pay your bills and, if it’s permanent, be able to do things like sell or refinance your house, access retirement funds, take care of the family business, or other important matters.
There are two ways that you can plan for someone to take care of your financial affairs if you’re disabled.
Financial Power of Attorney (POA) – Authorizes someone else to take care of your banking, real estate, investment and other financial affairs on your behalf. There are a growing number of financial institutions that will only accept a POA for a short time after you sign it, or require that you sign their specific form, so a POA may not always work when you need it. Consult with an attorney to ensure you sign the right POA (there are several different kinds) and discuss the pros and cons of relying on a POA.
Revocable Living Trust – Because there are a variety of situations where a POA may not work to take care of your financial affairs, you may want to consider a Living Trust to plan for your possible incapacity. Unlike a POA, a properly drafted Living Trust actually changes ownership of your house, bank accounts and other assets in a way keeps you in complete control now, and gives your chosen successor the right to handle things for you if you’re incapacitated, without possibility of being rejected by a picky financial institution.
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