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Time for a Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney

In your 20s and 30s, you’re focused on building your life. Your thoughts center around personal goals, repaying your student loans, starting a family, and maybe even traveling and seeing more of

the world. But what about estate planning?

If you think you’re too young — think again. Incapacity can occur at any age. Most people prefer to have control over what happens to their belongings when the unthinkable happens. But when there’s no plan in place, the state decides what happens to your assets.

If a health emergency makes you unable to communicate your treatment wishes, your family shoulders the burden of making those decisions for you.

A health care directive (aka, living will) tells your family and friends what lifesaving medical treatments you want and, more importantly, don’t want. Doctors and nurses are legally bound to abide by your directive – unless they have an objection of conscience or consider your wishes medically inappropriate – regardless of what your family wants.

Here’s one example of the importance of this document: In 1990, 26-year-old Terri Schiavo suffered a cardiac emergency that left her in a vegetative state and triggered a 15-year conflict over her care. Her husband insisted on allowing natural death, but her parents argued they must keep her alive using extraordinary measures. A simple health care directive could have prevented the legal battle to control her destiny.

Likewise, a health care power of attorney (POA) document lets you name someone you trust as your “agent” or “attorney in fact,” giving them the power to make medical decisions on your behalf. For situations where an advance directive does not give enough guidance, your agent can determine those decisions, such as whether to perform a specific procedure. Once you can communicate, a power of attorney rescinds, and you have decision rights again.

What to do

You can find many templates online to set up a POA. However, keep in mind that, while all states accept POAs, each state has different rules and requirements. Consider using an attorney to draw up the document to ensure it meets requirements in your state.

For a comprehensive health and life insurance review, reach out to RCB & Associates, LLC, our team will be happy to help!

Unexpected events can happen at any time, so certain estate planning tasks should be done while people are in their 20s and 30s. Consider how digital assets and student loans figure into the plan and make decisions about who will act as the guardian of a minor child if parents are unable to do so.


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