From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag, a question about Estate Planning before surgery:
“I am going to have some major surgery next month. Is it a good idea to do Estate Planning before surgery? What documents do you suggest I have done?”
Certainly, working on your Estate Planing documents can be stressful. But, putting your documents in order before surgery can not only relieve some stress, but a well thought out and planned Estate Planning before surgery could save your life. Medical emergencies happen all the time, making it vital to nominate the correct person to act for you in that emergency. Not everyone handles emergencies well. And, the law picks your medical spokesperson if you fail to nominate someone yourself. Wouldn’t you rather know who might make your life-or-death choice?
Medical Power of Attorney.
Everyone needs a medical advocate; a person to stand up for them when they are unable. This person is often called your Surrogate. During surgery, you will be unconscious. When unconscious, you are unable to make medical decisions. Further, if there are surgery complications or a newly discovered condition immediate action might be the best answer. As a consequence, if you are not able to authorize the procedure, it may require a problematic delay. Instead, you should have executed a Medical Power of Attorney authorizing someone to make this decision for you.
Certainly, your spouse or family are logical choices but are not a legal requirement. At times, a spouse or parent are not the best advocates. Some people do not hold up well under pressure or in the hospital. Therefore, you should select a Surrogate who is calm under pressure. Further, you want a person who will ask all necessary questions and, most importantly, will authorize action as you would have yourself. You are not looking for a Surrogate who will decide what they think is best. Instead, you are looking for a surrogate who will make the decision that you would have done given the facts and circumstances.
Durable General Power of Attorney.
After nominating your medical power of attorney, make sure you take care of your financial needs. The surgery might only take part of a day, but it is always possible that your recovery could extend much longer. If you are at the hospital, who will pay your bills or follow up on a dispute with your insurance company? You would be wise to select a competent person to manage these affairs. And, you do so by signing a Durable, General Power of Attorney.
In a Durable, General Power of Attorney you appoint a person (or persons) to serve as your “Agent.” You can give your Agent power to handle any financial matter. You could also create a Special Power of Attorney, crafted to give your Agent only one power. For example, the single authority to oversee the sale of your house. “Durable” means that your Agent continues to have these powers even if you are incapacitated.
Armed with a well-drafted power of attorney, your Agent can address whatever problems may arise while you are unable to manage your affairs.
Estate Planning; We Can Help!
I exclusively focus my practice on estate planning, and I am happy to help prepare you. Surgery and estate planning do go hand-in-hand. I am glad to walk you through your estate planning options over the phone or in person. Please feel free to Contact our office for a free consultation. We try to make the process as painless as possible!
Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation It’s All We Do!
Peter Klenk, Esq., LL.M.