For many, starting college often marks the entry into young adult hood. For many students, this will be the first time that they are living away from home. For those young adults who are over the age of eighteen, this is also the perfect time to execute advance directives and a financial power of attorney to ensure that their affairs may be taken care of in the event of disability, illness or accident. Here are three documents to put on your “back to school” list:
Health Care Proxy: A health care proxy grants an agent to make healthcare or medical decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them yourself. A health care proxy is often referred to as a “springing” document because it takes effect only after your doctor declares you incapable of making health care decisions. Until such time, you make your own healthcare decisions. Without a health care proxy there is no certainty that another individual, such as a parent, will have the legal authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so and may even be limited in the kind of information they may receive from medical professionals.
Living Will: Living Wills explain your beliefs about emergency and end-of-life medical care. You can insert specific treatments that you would, or would not, want. Living wills are not legally enforceable in Massachusetts, but they provide guidance about what you would want under the circumstances.
Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney grants another person to act on your behalf to make financial decisions and manage your financial affairs such as pay bills and access accounts. A durable power will be valid even after disability or incapacity.
By putting your wishes in writing and designating the individual that you would want to make these important decisions, you are entrusting someone to carry out your affairs the way you would like. Otherwise, you run the risk that someone who may know little about you, such as an estranged family member or court, will be responsible for your care or handling your important matters.
A durable power of attorney, health care proxy and living will are very powerful legal documents and should only be executed after careful thought about who you would like to make decisions on your behalf. An attorney is not required to execute these documents, but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea to execute those documents without one. Both documents can be tailored to the specific needs and wishes of the principal which boilerplate documents do not often address. An attorney can assist in this process. Most states have laws which require recognition of out-of-state documents so if you or your child is attending college out of state the Massachusetts documents will likely still be enforceable.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys to prepare these documents please contact Melissa Howitt or John Dugan, or call to speak to one of our estate planning attorneys as 508-541-3000.