There are two components of estate planning -- documents that cover what will happen after death, and those that cover incapacitation. Massachusetts residents who are conducting long term care planning also benefit from including health care powers of attorney, advanced directives and durable powers of attorney. As the name implies, a health care power of attorney allows an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf under certain conditions. An advance directive lets you make choices regarding end-of-life treatment. A durable power of attorney, on the other hand, allows the agent to make financial decisions for you.
If you become incapacitated, several things will occur. First, someone will need to arrange for your care, which includes making medical decisions and arranging payment of your bills -- including medical bills -- to be paid, among other things. An advance directive is a starting point for your health care proxy. Without this document, your loved ones may not know what life saving and/or extending measures you do or do not want.