When doing your estate planning, it’s important to consider the role of a healthcare power of attorney. This is different than simply leaving a directive to tell the doctors what type of medical care you want, although it is a related process.
Rather than leaving instructions, your power of attorney chooses a person and gives them the legal right to make decisions. In a situation where you can’t make these medical decisions yourself, they can step in and do it for you.
This can be incredibly helpful in an emergency situation. Say you suddenly get very sick and have to go to the hospital. They keep you in a medically-induced coma to help you survive. You never planned for any of this and clearly didn’t have a chance to tell doctors what you wanted. As they learn more about your condition, they’ll need someone to sign off on the treatment.
In that situation, the agent you named in the power of attorney can do this job on your behalf. They should know you well enough to make the choices that they think you would make if you could. Many people just pick their children, but you do not have to. You want to pick someone you trust and you want to talk with them in advance about your desires, especially for end-of-life care and more extreme measures.
Estate planning begins with financial issues and asset division, but you can see that it’s about so much more than that. Make sure you look into all of the options you have so that you know what steps to take.