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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Saturday, October 31, 2020

10 Life Planning Documents for End of Life Issues

It can give you peace of mind to know that you have taken steps to prepare for the issues people can face at the end of their lives. Rather than banking on a “hope and a prayer,” you can orchestrate the things that will help you be physically comfortable and provide for your loved ones.

You have many different options, depending on your situation. A California estate planning attorney can help you evaluate 10 life planning documents for end of life issues and craft an estate plan tailored to your needs and goals.

Life Planning Documents

Here are some of your options for life planning documents:

  • Will. This basic estate document is your opportunity to say how you want your assets distributed when you die. Also, you get to select who will manage your estate and carry out (execute) the terms of your will. You might want to include a personal property memorandum that says how you want specific items distributed, to avoid family squabbles. For example, you can itemize who gets which pieces of jewelry, your wedding china, and other things. You can change the terms of the memo without having to change your will. You should mention the document in your will.
  • Living Trust. You could choose to have a living trust instead of a will. This document does not get filed with the court, so you have more privacy than with a will. You can also reference a personal property memorandum in a living trust. A living trust gives you more flexibility than a will. For example, with a trust, you can arrange for someone (a trustee) to manage the proceeds of your life insurance policy until your child grows up and can manage his own finances. There are numerous types of trusts available, like Medicaid, spendthrift, or special needs trusts.
  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney. This estate planning document can benefit you during your lifetime. With a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, you can select someone to oversee your finances, run your business, or perform other financial management tasks for you if you ever become incapacitated, even temporarily, from an injury or illness.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document lets you choose someone who can make your healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated. It does not take away your right to speak and decide for yourself, as long as you have legal capacity.
  • Diminishing Capacity Letter. These letters allow your doctor or another professional to call the person you specify, like a friend or relative, if they notice that your cognitive, psychological, physical, or other capacity decreases.
  • Living Will, also called “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (POLST). You can dictate specific medical interventions you want and do not want as you near the end of your life. You and your doctor review the form. Both of you sign the paper, which then goes into your medical record. Doctors and hospitals must follow these orders.
  • Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR); Do Not Intubate Order (DNI). You can post this order in a conspicuous place in your hospital room or another location near you so that medical personnel will see it in the event of an emergency.
  • Organ & Tissue Donation. You can register your preferences with the National Organ Donor Registry. Even if you noted your wishes on your driver’s license, you might not have your license with you in an emergency.
  • Funeral Plan & Obituary. Many people like to plan things, like the type of burial, songs or speakers for the service, the wording of the obituary, and other details. When you do this, your loved ones know that they followed your wishes rather than having to guess and deal with many decisions while they grieve.
  • Life Insurance and other beneficiary designations. Be sure to fill out the beneficiary designation on your life insurance policies and other assets that can pass on your death.

A California estate planning attorney can talk with you about the best combination of estate planning documents for your situation. Contact us today.


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