Advanced directives are documents that assist in the event that a person loses the capacity to make decisions on their own behalf. These documents allow a designated agent to act on someone else’s behalf in order to make medical or financial decisions. It is recommended that those over the age of eighteen have advanced directives in place, especially if he or she is going away to college.
There are different types of advanced directives, such as a health care proxy, living will, and a power of attorney. A health care proxy is a document that designates a person to make medical decisions in the event a person becomes incapacitated. The level of capacity required for an individual to sign a health care proxy is very low, which means that a person with dementia isn’t automatically disqualified from executing a valid health care proxy. The law presumes that individuals have capacity and that a health care proxy is valid unless there is evidence to the contrary.
A living will is often executed along with a health care proxy. It is a document that informs others of a person wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments or the withdrawal of care. It may address intubation, the use of antibiotics, and organ donation, among other things.
A power of attorney designates an agent to make financial decisions on a person’s behalf in the event he or she is incapacitated. For a power of attorney, the law requires a higher degree of capacity. To execute a valid power of attorney, an individual must know who the designated power of attorney is, have a thorough understanding of what he or she is signing, and what the implications of that document are.
It is important to speak with an experienced attorney in order to execute an estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan includes the execution of advanced directives as well as a will. In addition, it is important that these documents be reviewed on an annual basis to reflect any life changes.
Trusts and estates is a very complex area of the law. The New Jersey estate planning attorneys at Hunziker, Jones, and Sweeney P.A. can assist you in all aspects of probate; creating and litigating wills; forming and managing revocable and irrevocable trusts; powers of attorney; gifts; family living partnerships; naming beneficiaries and developing a strategy that will ensure your assets are protected and your legacy endures. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact our Wayne, New Jersey estate planning lawyers at (973) 256-0456 or fill out our contact form.