No matter your age or socioeconomic status, estate planning is something you need to consider.
Maybe you’re looking at this and rolling your eyes. You’re saying to yourself that you don’t have millions in the bank, or a business you own, or maybe you don’t have anyone you want to leave your belongings to. But here’s the thing: Estate planning is about more than deciding how to transfer your assets.
What would happen if you got into an accident or suddenly became extremely ill? Who would look out for your best interests in the case you can’t speak for yourself? Naming someone you trust as your medical power of attorney is one of the most important parts of any estate plan.
What is a medical power of attorney?
While having a living will or advanced care directive are great steps in completing your estate plan, adding a medical power of attorney to your docket can help ensure you are getting the kind of care you would want no matter what happens.
A medical power of attorney, sometimes known as your health care power of attorney, names an individuals, or individuals, that you would like to make health care decisions in your place if you are unable to communicate. This person is considered your health care agent or representative.
Unlike an advanced care directive or living will, your health care agent can step in when your incapacitation is not life threatening. If you have religious or personal beliefs that mean you would rather not receive certain types of medical care, like the use of a breathing tube or blood infusions, he or she can relay that information to medical personnel.
What happens if I don’t have a medical power of attorney?
If you don’t have someone signed up as your official health care agent, most likely either your spouse, adult child or parent will be asked to make medical decisions on your behalf. Which of those options it will end up being depends on the state in which you live and your situation. Depending on your circumstances, those options might not work for you.
For example, if you and your spouse were in a car accident and you both become incapacitated, he or she would not be able to serve as your representative. If you are single, but are in a long-term relationship, perhaps you’d want your significant other to represent you. Appointing a medical power of attorney is the only sure way to know that the person you feel most comfortable with is the one calling the shots in case of an emergency.
How do I add a medical power of attorney to my estate plan?
The first step is selecting your representative and making sure they are willing to take on that responsibility. It’s a good idea to have an alternate representative as well, in case your primary person is unavailable. Be sure the person, or people, you choose are comfortable abiding by your wishes and relaying that information to medical personnel.
Then you’ll need to fill out the correct forms for your state of residence and have them notarized and/or witnessed. The paperwork you’ll need can be found online, or can be provided to you by your attorney or financial advisor and team of specialists.
If you’re unsure about any part of this process, your financial advisor can help you through it. With a medical power of attorney on file, you can rest assured that no matter what happens, you are in control of your care.
This article was originally published on 12/16/17 in the Pioneer Press.
Bruce Helmer, a founding member of Wealth Enhancement Group, has been the host of the “Your Money” Radio Show for more than 20 years. He is also featured weekly on the Twin Cities CBS affiliate WCCO, and has penned three financial advice publications.