If you typically think of elderly people when the topic of estate planning comes up, you definitely aren’t the only person in Georgia or elsewhere to do so. However, planning an estate is a valuable tool that adults of any age can use to protect their assets, preserve a legacy, create a succession plan for their business or implement an advance directive. The latter contains instructions and wishes that you might have regarding your health, particularly for situations or decisions that must be made if you become incapacitated.
Incapacitation can occur at any age. It is not isolated to senior citizens. You might be involved in a car accident that results in traumatic brain injury, or you may suffer dementia at an early age. Any number of issues may arise whereby you would no longer be able to make decisions on your own behalf about important healthcare issues, such as whether to intubate or use life support, a feeding tube or other end-of-life care.
Thinking and planning in advance can give you peace of mind
Just as implied by its title, an advance directive is a legal document that you would sign in advance of needing it. While you are of sound mind, you may put specific preferences and instructions regarding your health in writing. If you later become incapacitated, your medical team and loved ones will know exactly what type of care you wish to receive, as well as any treatments you may not want, such as resuscitation, if your heart stops.
You may also address issues such as the use of a ventilator or why type of palliative care you wish to receive (such as morphine for pain). If you do not wish to be subjected to medical testing, you can incorporate specific instructions to limit or withhold such procedures.
Including a power of attorney in your advance directive
Another important issue you may address through an advance directive is who may make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so. You may grant a power of attorney to someone you trust to carry out your wishes. If at any point you become incapacitated, the person you appointed may speak and act on your behalf.
If you sign an advance directive at age 35 and feel differently about some of the issues contained therein when you are older, you may, as long as you are still of sound mind, amend your plan. You can also write separate instructions for different ages in your initial directive, such as stating that you want or do want certain treatments at an older age but are okay with it if you are a younger age and are expected to recover.