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Estate planning documents to help plan for the unexpected

Life can be unpredictable and is full of surprises, both good and bad. While there is often no way to anticipate or predict when an individual may be adversely impacted by an illness or accident, there are steps one can take to control what happens next.

Every individual over the age of 18, regardless of age or health, should take the time to ensure they have completed an estate planning document known as an advanced medical directive. In the event an individual is seriously injured in a car accident and unable to speak or communicate, directions outlined in his or her medical directive would be followed.

A medical directive can provide explicit directions for medical professionals related to what measures should and should not be pursued in attempts to save or prolong an individual's life. Having this type of document can absolve loved ones from having to make difficult decisions that may ultimately impact an individual’s health and ability to enjoy life.

Along with having a medical directive, individuals are advised to appoint a trusted individual to ensure their wishes are carried out. In addition to a medical directive, individuals would be wise to appoint a power of attorney. Legally appointing a power of attorney allows the named individual to make non-medical decisions on one's behalf. For example, in cases where an individual is hospitalized, a power of attorney would ensure that bills are paid and other important financial matters attended to.

Many New York residents wrongly believe that estate planning is only important for wealthy or older individuals. In reality, however, there are certain estate planning documents such as a medical directive and power of attorney that are important to have at any age. Individuals interested in learning more about estate planning would be wise to contact an attorney who handles these types of matters.

Source: WTXL, "What You Need To Know About Advance Directives," Keith Morris, Dec. 13, 2013

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