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The holidays and health care planning in Massachusetts

Now is the time of year when Massachusetts families that may not get to be together much during the rest of the year are together. This may not seem like an opportune time to discuss health care planning, but there never really is an optimal time to broach the subject. No one wants to think about becoming incapacitated — especially around the holidays. However, making preparations might give everyone peace of mind.

At least two documents bear consideration when planning for the unlikely event of incapacitation. The first is an advanced care directive used by some states as a combination living will and health care power of attorney or proxy. Other states separate these two documents. This document makes the signer’s intentions known in the event of incapacitation and appoints a trusted person to make health care decisions on that person’s behalf.

A durable power of attorney gives the appointed person the right to conduct the incapacitated person’s finances. Financial decisions regarding the payment of bills and even the selling of assets can be made with the use of this document. A durable power of attorney is often not effective until a doctor certifies the patient is incapacitated.

Discussing the execution and location of these documents with family could eliminate confusion and a loss of precious time if the signer becomes incapacitated. Massachusetts health care planning may not be idle dinner conversation, but it is an important topic to discuss, especially as a person ages. This advanced preparation may be just as important as having health insurance — individuals never want to use it, but it is available when needed.

Source: Forbes, How To Have The Power-Of-Attorney Talk Before It’s Too Late, Nancy Anderson, Nov. 29, 2013

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