No one ever plans to be sick or disabled. Yet, it’s this kind of planning that can make all the difference in an emergency and at the end-of-life.
Establishing advance directives regarding future health care decisions can ensure that a person’s wishes are met and can also relieve families from having to make difficult decisions at a time of great stress. The Missouri Bar has developed and makes available as a public service a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive” for use by the general public. This booklet and form may be picked up at our office at no charge or downloaded online. This is a great first step into ensuring your affairs are in order.
Steps for Getting Your Affairs in Order
Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You can set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add.
Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of an emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help.
Discuss your end-of-life preferences with your doctor. He or she can explain what health decisions you may have to make in the future and what treatment options are available. Talking with your doctor can help ensure your wishes are honored. Discussing advance care planning decisions with your doctor is free through Medicare during your annual wellness visit. Private health insurance may also cover these discussions.
Give permission in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form.
Important Legal Documents You May Need as You Age
There are many different types of legal documents that can help you plan how your affairs will be handled in the future. Many of these documents have names that sound alike, so make sure you are getting the documents you want. Also, state laws vary, so find out about the rules, requirements, and forms used in your state.
Wills and trusts let you name the person you want your money and property to go to after you die. Advance directives let you make arrangements for your care if you become sick. Two common types of advance directives are:
- A living will gives you a say in your health care if you become too sick to make your wishes known. In a living will, you can state what kind of care you do or don’t want. This can make it easier for family members to make tough healthcare decisions for you.
- A durable power of attorney for health care lets you name the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Make sure the person you name is willing to make those decisions for you.
For legal matters, there are ways to give someone you trust the power to act in your place.
- A general power of attorney lets you give someone else the authority to act on your behalf, but this power will end if you are unable to make your own decisions.
- A durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to act on your behalf for any legal task, but it stays in place if you become unable to make your own decisions.
Help for Getting Your Legal and Financial Papers in Order
You may want to talk with a lawyer about setting up a general power of attorney, durable power of attorney, joint account, trust, or advance directive. Be sure to ask about the lawyer’s fees before you make an appointment.
You should be able to find a directory of local lawyers on the Internet or at your local library, or you can contact your local bar association for lawyers in your area. Your local bar association can also help you find what free legal aid options your state has to offer. An informed family member may be able to help you manage some of these issues.
Article Thanks to nia.nih.gov