Despite what many New Jersey residents may believe, estate planning is not just for the elderly and it doesn’t only cover a will. A comprehensive estate plan includes instructions for what needs to be done in case an individual is unable to make healthcare or financial decisions on their own. These documents include but are not limited to:
This document gives someone else the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This document is also called a medical power of attorney. Anyone over the age of 18 should have such a document in place, as parents no longer have the right to access medical information and make important decisions regarding care after their child becomes an adult. This document should be updated over time; spouses often replace parents and if one is not married but has a longtime partner, the partner needs to be appointed.
A living will
End-of-life treatment can be specified through a living will. You should be able to make these important decisions such as intubation and resuscitation for yourself and leave instructions for what to do in case such a situation arises. Getting one’s wishes out there for everyone to know can avoid family disputes in the long run.
Durable power of attorney
This document gives another party the legal authority to make financial decisions when one is unable to do so on their own. For example, adult children can help their parents with their finances and communicate with banks and investment firms on their behalf.
Without these documents in place, family members may have to go to court and fight for the right to make decisions that they would have ordinarily had the authority to make, had an estate plan been created. In order to make sure one’s wishes are respected when they can no longer be communicated, it might be beneficial to consult an experienced attorney for guidance on how to proceed.