Regardless of whether a loved one in your family is facing a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s, ideally you should have your legal planning in place for such an event – thereby taking one less major stressor off the table should something occur. Legal life planning should include: Estate planning documents including Last Will, Powers of Attorney and Living Will. If you have already completed these documents then it is important to review existing legal documents and make necessary updates. This allows you and your family to:
- Make legal plans for finances and property
- Put plans in place for enacting your future health care and long-term care preferences
- Name another person to make decisions on your behalf when you no longer can
At a minimum your estate planning documents should include:
General durable power of attorney . The power of attorney allows you (the principal) to name another individual (called an attorney-in-fact or agent) to make financial and other decisions when you are no longer able. A successor agent or agents should also be named in case the original agent you choose is unavailable or unwilling to serve. Power of attorney does not give the person you appoint (agent) the authority to override your decision making. You maintain the right to make your own decisions, as long as you have legal capacity. A durable power of attorney for finances/property allows you to designate another person to make decisions about your finances, such as income, assets and investments, when you can longer do so.
Power of attorney for health care. A power of attorney for health care allows you to name a health care agent to make health care decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able.
Health decisions covered by the power of attorney for health care include:
- Doctors and other health care providers
- Types of treatments
- Care facilities
- End-of-life care decisions, such as the use of feeding tubes
- Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders
Discuss your wishes regarding care with your chosen agent early and often to make sure that this person understands your wishes and is willing and able to act on your behalf when the times comes.
Living will . A living will, a type of advance directive, expresses your wishes for what medical treatment you want, or do not want, near end of life, such as life-prolonging treatments. In Colorado, this document should be respected and adhered to by medical personnel so long as it has been signed in front of two witnesses and notarized. It is a document you should prepare and sign before any disease such as Alzheimer’s progresses.
Last Will and Testament. Your Last Will and Testament provides information about how your estate will be distributed upon death. In your will, you may name a personal representative, the person who will manage your estate, and beneficiaries, the person(s) who will receive the assets in the estate.