Submitted by: Peggy R. Hoyt, J.D., M.B.A., The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, LLC, Family Wealth & Legacy Counsellors, One Senior Place Resident Business

hbFor many, the New Year comes with New Year’s resolutions.  If you have not completed your estate planning, or have not updated your planning in some time, doing so would be a good resolution to have.  You might be surprised to know, estate planning does not simply mean having a plan for what happens in the case of your death.  A comprehensive estate plan also includes planning for what happens in the event of your disability – specifically, if you are not mentally competent.  This part of estate planning may be overlooked or missed but it can be the most important part of planning.  We never think an accident or illness will happen to us. If it does, are you prepared? There are three legal documents you will want to have in case of your mental incapacity.

First, your General Durable Power of Attorney is “durable,” meaning it endures or continues in the event of your disability and does not end.  This Power of Attorney allows you to nominate a person you trust to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf.  In Florida, this Power of Attorney is effective the minute it is signed by you.  Your disability is not required to trigger the General Durable Power of Attorney.  This directive is most helpful in the event of your disability so that someone has the ability to stand in your shoes and be you in order to access your bank account, pay your bills, and make sure you are taken care of financially.

Second, your Healthcare Power of Attorney (also known as a health care proxy or surrogate) is a Durable Power of Attorney specifically designed to name someone you trust to make everyday healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so. When choosing a health care agent, select someone who will keep your best interests and wishes in mind.  A Healthcare Power of Attorney can be effective immediately or effective upon disability.  It is up to you to choose which option makes the most sense for you.

Third, your Living Will (also known as an advance medical directive) is a declaration setting forth your wishes regarding how you want to be treated with respect to life prolonging medical procedures. A Living Will applies in situations where you are unable to make your own decision, you have either a terminal condition, end stage condition or are in a persistent vegetative state and your doctors have determined there is no reasonable medical probability of your recovery.  If these elements are present, then your Living Will says you do not want to be kept alive by life prolonging procedures (respiration, hydration or nutrition) but you will accept a procedure or medication that will alleviate your pain or provide comfort care.

Your disability documents will not do you any good if no one knows about them; you will need to talk with the person you designate to make sure they know where you keep them. If you do not have these valuable planning tools, feel free to contact The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys or visit our website for more information.