Having a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney is especially important for single people. A woman is shopping when suddenly she is struck by abdominal pains that are so severe she passes out in the store. When she comes to, an EMT is asking her questions. One of those questions is, “Do you have a living will or health care power of attorney?” That was a wake-up call for her and should be for other singles also, says Morningstar in the article “2 Estate-Planning Tools That Singles Should Consider.”
People who don’t have children or a spouse often think they don’t need any kind of estate plan. However, the truth is they do. For singles, a power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and a living will are especially important.
What is a Living Will? A living will is sometimes called an advance medical directive. It details your wishes if you are in a situation where life-sustaining treatment is the only way to keep you alive. Would you want to remain on a respirator, have a feeding tube, or have other extreme measures used? It’s not pleasant to think about. However, this is an opportunity for you to make this decision on your own behalf for a possible future date when you won’t be able to convey your wishes. Some people want to stay alive, no matter what. Others would prefer to turn off any artificial means of life support.
Having a living will spares your loved ones from having to guess about what treatment you would like in an emergency.
What is a Health Care Power of Attorney? This is a legal document that gives a person you name the ability to make your healthcare decisions if you can’t. To some people, this matters more than a living will because the health care power of attorney can convey your wishes in situations where you are not terminally ill but incapacitated.
How to select a Health Care Power of Attorney? Find someone you trust, whose judgment you respect, and have a long, serious talk with them. Talk about your preferences for blood transfusions, organ transplants, disclosure about your medical records, and more. Doctors have a hard time when a group of relatives and friends are all trying to help if no one person has been named as your power of attorney for healthcare.
Make your documents available. Signing these documents is meaningless unless you deliver them in a meaningful way. Our smartphones are where they should be. We scan and email them to our clients and encourage them to share the electronic version with their decision makers, both to discuss your wishes and make them accessible in an emergency.
What else does a single person need? The documents listed above are just part of an estate plan, not the whole thing. A single person should have a will, so they can determine who they want to receive their assets upon death. They should also check on their beneficiary designations from time to time, so any insurance policies, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and any other assets that allow beneficiary designations are going to the correct person.
The takeaway here is that, in order to protect yourself in a health care emergency situation, you should have a living will and health care power of attorney in place. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. This is not a complicated matter, but it is an important one.
Reference: Morningstar (April 23, 2019) “2 Estate-Planning Tools That Singles Should Consider”