An Advance Medical Directive is a document which contains two components, both a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will.
A power of attorney is a written document giving an agent the power to act on behalf of the principal. A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated. Typically, a Health Care Power of Attorney is a "springing" power, which means that if you are capable of making your own decisions, then you will be asked, if you are not able to speak for yourself, your agent can speak on your behalf.
The Living Will component of an Advanced Medical Directive allows for you to express your wishes with regard to end of life decisions and decisions regarding artificial life sustaining treatment. It is a written document where you provide instructions regarding the types of medical treatment and care you would want to receive or refuse at the end of life.
Financial Power of Attorney
A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to manage your financial assets in the event you become incapacitated. It allows your agent to step into your shoes and handle your financial affairs. This document is typically a durable power, which means it becomes operative upon the execution of the document.
Without a power of attorney, there may be a need to proceed with a guardianship through the Orphans' Court. This proceeding can be expensive and time-consuming.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament allows you to direct who is going to receive your property upon your death, and allows you to select an executor. The executor is the person who will manage the estate administration process.
It is important to recognize that a Will only controls your assets that are titled in your sole individual name. Your Will does not overide beneficary desigations, nor does it control assets that are titled jointly with the right of survivorship.
Updating your Estate Plan
Many people think that once you have an estate plan in place, there is no need to revisit or review it. The truth is that your estate plan should be reviewed and updated with any necessary changes whenever a major life event happens, such as:
- a change in marital status
- a death in the family
- a birth in the family
- a change in law
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