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.
If your incapacitation lasts for any length of time, it may be necessary to access your accounts in order to protect your assets. This could include anything from simply paying the bills to selling personal property or real estate. It is possible to limit the actions that an agent can take.
Without powers of attorney, family members would be required to go to a Massachusetts court in order to obtain the right to conduct your affairs during incapacitation. This could cause significant delays in medical treatment that could potentially be life threatening. Without the ability to protect your assets, any number of financial mishaps could occur while family members spend time in court. Creating an estate plan that includes safeguards for the possibility that you could be unable to make decisions on your own for any number of reasons provides everyone with peace of mind.