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Discussing powers of attorney and end-of-life choices with family

Nearly every estate plan needs to include not only documents that will deal with the distribution of a Massachusetts resident's property after death, but also documents that become effective if he or she becomes incapacitated. This includes powers of attorney for both financial and health care issues, along with advance directives. Without these instructions and the appointment of someone to make decisions on his or her behalf, an individual's family could end up in a costly and time-consuming legal battle.

Before executing a health care power of attorney, it may be beneficial to consult with the person or persons an individual wants to appoint. If someone does not feel comfortable making those decisions, another person needs to be consulted. For some people, dealing with a loved one's incapacitation is enough, and attempting to add the responsibility of making life and death medical decisions may be too much. 

Further, it is crucial that the person or persons chosen understand what the individual expects from them in terms of end-of-life care. This could put his or her mind at ease that he or she is merely carrying out a person's wishes. Once the appointments have been made, it is a good idea to complete advance directives to ensure that your wishes are clear to everyone involved -- including medical personnel. The combination of these two documents might ensure that a person's wishes are carried out.

When it comes to how a Massachusetts resident wants to die, making his or her wishes known through powers of attorney and advance directives can eliminate any confusion for family members in an already untenable situation. Further, most medical personnel and facilities will honor such documents. If any difference of opinion develops between medical personnel and family, these estate-planning documents can provide a quick resolution to the disagreement.

Source: dallasnews.com, "Learn your loved one's end-of-life wishes while you can", Pamela Yip, Oct. 3, 2014

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