A well-constructed estate plan will go beyond the facilitation of postmortem asset transfers. It will also address eventualities that you may well face toward the end of your life. To understand the importance of this facet of your plan, you have to hear some statistics on aging.
Until you have actually had a particular experience, it is pretty much impossible to put yourself in that position. For example, when you were a little child, you were probably incapable of being able to imagine yourself as a parent. The same dynamic enters the picture when it comes to the other stages of life.
At the time of this writing, if you are not currently collecting your Social Security benefit, you will become eligible somewhere between your 66th and 67th birthday. It is very likely that you expect to be around to see these benefits, and if you do, your life expectancy may surprise you.
According to a tool that is available on the Social Security website, a woman who is reaching the age of 67 today has a life expectancy of 87 years. For a man, the figure is 85, and of course, it is important to note the fact that medical science is advancing all the time.
Longevity is a good thing in general, but getting back to the opening of this section, it is definitely hard to wrap your head around the thought of being an octogenarian. At the same time, as you can see when you look at these figures, there is a good chance that you will join the ranks of the oldest old eventually.
People who reach an advanced age often become unable to communicate sound medical decisions on their own. One major culprit is Alzheimer’s disease. We have all heard of it, but its widespread nature may surprise you. Approximately 10% of all seniors have contracted the disease, and the figure rises to 40% for people who are 85 years of age and older.
As we are all aware, Alzheimer’s disease causes dementia, and it is actually one of the leading causes of death. This is one reason why people become unable to communicate sound decisions at some point in time, but there are others, so you should definitely prepare for this possibility while you can.
Record Your Preferences in Advance
Now that we have set the stage appropriately, we can directly address the question that serves as the title of this blog post. Your estate plan should include documents called advance directives for health care to account for possible incapacity during the latter stages of your life.
One document that should be part of the plan is a living will. This type of will has nothing to do with monetary asset transfers. A living will is used to state your preferences with regard to the utilization of life-sustaining measures if you were in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery.
Another advance directive that should be added is a durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy. With this device, you would name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so on your own.
In order for your health care agent to act in an informed manner, he or she must have access to your medical records. To facilitate this, you should include a HIPAA release form along with the two advance directives. It should be noted that you can allow anyone who you choose to have access to the records; the accessibility does not have to be confined to the health care agent.
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