Many people may associate estate planning with end-of-life issues. However, you can use estate planning tools to make sure your wishes do not go unheeded if you are disabled, for example by a car accident or an unexpected health complication.
You can let people know how you want them to take care of matters and take care of you if you suddenly become incapacitated.
Make your own health care choices
If you are unconscious or delirious, someone must work with the doctor on your behalf regarding the treatment you need. Particularly if you have strong religious or personal beliefs about the type of life-sustaining methods you want, it is important to create an advance directive. This details your preferences for the care you may receive and takes the pressure off your loved ones, who may be unsure of how to proceed.
Your advance directive or living will usually expresses a preference about being kept alive, when death is imminent, through extraordinary life sustaining measures, and explains what medical treatment or type of treatment you want or do not want. You cannot anticipate every possible treatment you may need, though. That is why you should also create a health care power of attorney. This document names the person you want to make medical decisions on your behalf. After you determine who should fill this role, you can have a discussion with him or her now to ensure that your philosophies, religious beliefs and other strong feelings about medical care are clear.
Choose who cares for your children
In an emergency, family members or friends may immediately step up to ensure that your children have a place to go and someone to look after them. But what if it is weeks or months before you can speak for yourself again?
By naming a guardian for your children in your estate planning documents, you can make your wishes known about how your children should be cared for, and by whom. You may protect them from having to go from friend to relative or ending up with a family member you would never have chosen. Before you name the guardian, though, have a conversation with him or her about the logistics, and whether it is something he or she is willing and able to do.
Give yourself peace of mind
Taking these steps will ensure your loved ones know how you would like your affairs handled if you are disabled. This will reduce any uncertainty about what will happen and gives you a method to speak for yourself no matter the circumstances.