Prepare a living will and powers of attorney as early as possible

Responsible aging New York residents may believe they have completed their estate planning when they have drawn up a will and designated how their assets will be distributed. In truth, however, this is only part of planning for the future. Just as important is creating a plan for health care decisions and financial security in the unfortunate but all-too-real possibility that aging will result in a deterioration of mind or body or the equally possible chance that unforeseen tragedy will strike. This essential documentation is referred to as a living will and powers of attorney.

Designating powers of attorney involves appointing a guardian to speak for an individual in the event that person becomes unable to do so. This appointed guardian has the ability to make financial and medical decisions if the individual becomes incapacitated, which can be especially important for an elderly person who does not have a living spouse. If an individual is not married and does not have children, the court may appoint a family member or someone else deemed qualified, and this person may have no idea of what the individual's actual wishes would be.

Several types of powers of attorney exist; a lawyer can help explain the differences between durable, springing, limited and general. Additionally, individuals may wish to choose one person for financial powers of attorney for legal and financial matters and another for healthcare powers of attorney to make medical decisions, or these could both be the same person. The living will portion indicates the individual's wishes on health care matters such as life support and resuscitation.

Most individuals find it beneficial to share these decisions with close family members and friends so that loved ones are prepared when the times comes. It can also be crucial to let anyone involved in the living will and powers of attorney know some of the specifics such as where to find the paperwork and the contact information for the New York lawyer who helped prepare the documentation. Planning ahead for end-of-life wishes may not be enjoyable, but it is important and will generally provide peace of mind in the long run.

Source:, "Longevity Planning: Covering All The Bases", Kathy Hower, May 15, 2017

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