The “10 Most Gruesome Estate Planning Mistakes” series. Mistake #9: Thinking a Trust is Enough

The Living Trust is a powerful estate planning tool, but to truly ensure your wishes are carried out should you become incapacitated and incapable of making decisions for yourself, addendums can be extremely helpful. For example, an Advanced Healthcare Directive can dictate how you wish to be cared for and what steps you authorize medical personnel to take to prolong your life.

A HIPAA Authorization can ensure your privacy while still making crucial medical information available to the people you want to have it. A Power of Attorney for financial a airs determines in advance who will be able to make financial decisions for you. Other commonly used addendums include Pour-over Wills, Assignment of Personal Property, Community Property Agreements, Appointments of Guardianship or Conservatorship, to name a few.

A Durable Power of Attorney

Durable Power of Attorney (DPoA) for health care is a legally binding document that appoints another individual over your health care decisions when it is determined that you can not make these decisions for yourself. Note that the DPoA for health care applies only to health care decisions. Many often think of someone’s power of attorney as a person designated to make financial and legal decisions. While you may choose the same person, a DPoA for health care is separate from the DPoA for financial matters.

The person you choose is referred to as your patient advocate and is empowered to make decisions about treatment, procedures, end-of-life care, organ donation and even arrange for you to be admitted to a nursing home or receive home health care. Your advocate’s responsibilities only last until your health is regained. It is not a permanent designation. You can also revoke your advocate and select someone else if you are considered “in sound mind.” There is a state-wide registry of DPoA’s for health care. So, if you are unconscious, your health care provider can have immediate access to your patient advocate’s name and contact information.

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