You never want to face the situation of a parent or family member ending up in the hospital with no estate planning documents. How can you make medical decisions for them? How can you make sure their bills are paid on time? The answer is that you probably can’t help with these tasks, at least not easily, unless they have planned and named you to act as their Power of Attorney and Health Care Agent.
Talk to your parents and make sure that they have the following documents in order :
1. Durable Power of Attorney - This allows another person to handle your finances in the event you are alive but incapacitated. It confers broad powers on an "agent" – your chosen person – over the "principal" – you and your assets. You should only name the most trusted persons as an agent. The power of attorney should be "General" conferring a long list of broad powers on the theory that you don't know which power will be needed and "Durable" meaning it survives your incapacity when it is needed most. Our "General Durable Powers of Attorney" are extremely detailed and contain enhanced elder powers not found in generic legal documents. Once a person loses mental capacity, it is too late for them to execute a Power of Attorney and a costly, lengthy court Guardianship might become necessary.
2. Health Care Proxy - This allows another person – a "health care representative" to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. You should choose a person aligned with your health values and with sufficient "tough love" to make difficult decisions. You must name one person at a time for this role. We suggest a primary with two alternates.
3. Medical-information release – This form permits doctors to share a patient's medical information with a named individual. Different medical institutions, such as doctor's offices and hospitals, may have different versions of this form.
4. Living Will - This pre-authorizes the withholding or withdrawal of life support under certain end of life conditions. For example, you may wish to refuse life support if you are at the end stage of a terminal illness or are deemed permanently unconscious (e.g. in a coma) by two physicians. Your health care representative will be able to use your Living Will to act on your behalf with your medical team to act in the way you would have wanted were you able to speak for yourself.