The vast majority of American adults are going through life without any estate planning documents at all. Curiously enough, a study that was conducted recently found that most of the people that are unprepared understand why it is important.
Nonetheless, they roll the dice hoping that they will have the time to do it later on. Unfortunately, far too many people never get around to it, and the family members have to pay the price.
Pandemic Wake-Up Call
Last year around this time, could you have possibly imagined the situation that we have faced in 2020? The pandemic has changed everything, and someone that feels perfectly okay can be in an intensive care unit a couple of days later dealing with a life-threatening health condition.
Aside from COVID-19, people are always vulnerable to unexpected illnesses and accidents, and this is why estate planning is a must for all responsible adults. Of course, the threat level is at an all-time high when we are in the midst of a global pandemic.
Advance Directives for Health Care
In addition to the financial part of the equation, a comprehensive estate plan will address potential incapacity. This applies to elders that are experiencing cognitive decline toward the end of their lives, and this is a widespread challenge.
Plus, people of all ages sometimes become unable to communicate when they are severely injured or extremely ill. Decisions must be made, and they are not in a position to make them.
You can take steps in advance to account for this possibility when you are devising your estate plan. The incapacity component should include advance directives for health care, and one of them is a living will.
This type of will is used to state your preferences with regard to the utilization of life-support methods like artificial nutrition and hydration, mechanical respiration, and resuscitation.
When you are creating your living will, you can address each different type of life-support individually if you choose to do so. The document can also include your comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation choices.
Another advance directive that should be part of the plan is a health care proxy. In some cases, there are decisions that must be made that do not directly apply to life-support. When you have this document in place, the agent that you choose would be empowered to act as a representative.
In order for the agent to have the ability to speak freely with your doctors, you would have to include a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release.
While we are on the subject of the HIPAA release, the patient privacy protections apply to all adults. As a result, if you have a child that is turning 18, they should sign one of these forms to give you access to their medical information.
Your estate plan should obviously include a will or a trust, but as we stated in the opening, far too many people do not take the appropriate action to protect their loved ones.
A 2020 Caring.com study found that 16.4 percent of individuals that were between 18 and 34 have estate plans in place. The number is 27.2 percent for people between 35 and 54 years of age.
Many people that are in these groups are the parents of dependent children. When you have others relying on you, estate planning becomes an absolute must. The financial component is key, and the plan should include the designation of a guardian for the children.
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