When someone mentions estate planning you probably think of wills and trusts , but it may be useful to look at the broader picture. We are all aware of the need to engage in retirement planning, and of course preparing for the distribution of your remaining assets to your loved ones after you pass away. But what about planning for the unexpected while you are still living?
Everyone wants to live a long and robust life, and indeed lifespans are expanding and people are living longer than ever. The fact is that the "oldest old," people 85 years old and older, are the fastest-growing segment of American society. So when you examine the data, it is becoming increasingly likely that you will live into your mid-80s and beyond. Though on the surface this can seem like a purely positive development, the reality is that incapacity is very common among people who reach such an advanced age and it must be planned for in advance.
To make sure that all of your bases are covered from a medical perspective estate planning attorneys will generally recommend the execution of advance directives. The two advance directives that are most widely utilized are the living will and the health care proxy. When you draw up a living will you instruct your physician as to your preferences with regard to potential medical procedures. The issue of whether or not you would want to be kept alive on artificial life support systems if your condition was deemed terminal is generally at the core of these documents.
A health care proxy is executed to name someone who can act as your agent and make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so due to incapacitation. Generally, medical professionals prefer to deal with the health care proxy, so a family member or close friend is making the final call, but if the proxy cannot be found, the physician can make the decision based upon the preferences expressed in your living will.