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Many people put off creating a will or estate plan until late in life. After all, few people who are healthy and young want to consider their own deaths. However, there’s no way to predict when a sudden, debilitating medical event like a stroke could strike. Car accidents, falls and other injuries can also leave you incapacitated and unable to communicate your desires to family or medical professionals.
In order to ensure that your wishes and preferences get followed by doctors and loved ones, you should take the time to commit your wishes to writing. Advanced directives and powers of attorney can help ensure your family knows your wishes and that they have the power to follow them.
If something were to happen to you, your first concern is probably reducing the negative impact on your family and loved ones. One major source of stress for those with an incapacitated loved one is not knowing which decisions to make. Don’t leave critical choices such as resuscitation, life support and organ donation to chance.
Making your wishes clear in your estate plan can help your family members respond appropriately after a medical event or accident. While talking to your loved ones about your preferences is always a great idea, committing them to writing ensures that nothing is left open to interpretation.
Similarly, you need to consider now who will be best able to make financial decisions if you cannot make them for yourself. Creating a power of attorney intended to give someone you trust decision-making authority will reduce stress on everyone in your family in the event you can’t advocate on your own behalf.
If something were to happen to you without an advance directive or a financial power of attorney in place, there are limits to who can make medical decisions for you. The authority first passes to your spouse, who may find decision-making at this time emotionally painful. In lieu of a spouse, your children or other relatives may have the right to make decisions on your behalf.
Choosing someone you know to be calm under pressure and capable of complying with your wishes protects you and your family. Creating a record of your wishes and naming one (or more) individuals to act on your behalf takes the pressure off of your loved ones. It also provides the peace of mind that comes from knowing your wishes are clear and easy to follow if something happens to you.