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Planning for Independence as You Age

A family gathering of planning for Independence as You Age

Gathering with family for a Fourth of July celebration is a heartwarming tradition, especially for the family’s oldest members. It’s a day to celebrate our nation’s independence and reflect on the generations gathered around the table. This time of togetherness also presents an opportunity to consider what plans are in place to ensure your independence in the coming years. This includes creating or updating your estate plan to reflect your wishes for your future and your family’s future. Planning may also involve preparing for long-term care and taxes.

Why Planning for Incapacity is Essential

Planning for incapacity is a crucial part of your Minnesota estate plan. It ensures that your family can take care of you if you become too sick or injured to manage your own affairs or communicate your wishes. Here are some key documents you should consider:

Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical Power of Attorney names a primary and secondary person to make health care decisions on your behalf. It needs to be current, as healthcare facilities are reluctant to rely on outdated forms. Your first choice may be an adult child or another family member, but it is wise to name someone who is calm in emergencies and will be able to make tough decisions if necessary.

Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney gives the named agent the ability to act on your behalf in the business aspects of your life. This includes everything from paying household bills and managing investment accounts to selling your home.

In his video, estate planning director at Stone Arch Law Office in Woodbury, Philip J. Ruce explains the different types of power of attorney used for times of incapacity. In Minnesota, ensuring you have the right type of financial power of attorney is crucial for protection during times of incapacity.

A common law power of attorney is a flexible document where you or your lawyer can specify the terms. However, its acceptance by banks and other institutions during incapacity is not guaranteed. These documents are more suitable for commercial transactions where new agreements can be signed if needed.

For incapacity, the recommended choice is a statutory power of attorney. This form adheres to Minnesota’s statutory requirements, ensuring that banks, financial institutions, and government bodies must accept it. If they refuse, they could be liable for damages, providing a high level of certainty that your financial affairs will be managed smoothly. This standard format is widely recognized, making it easier for your appointed agent to handle tasks like paying bills, managing property taxes, and communicating with financial advisors.

Having a statutory power of attorney ensures that your financial matters are handled efficiently and in accordance with your wishes, providing peace of mind during uncertain times.

Living Will or Advance Directives

Living wills or advance directives give directions about your preferences for medical care if you’re seriously ill, in a coma, or near death. These documents help avoid family arguments about your wishes and ensure decisions are made according to your preferences. Questions such as whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means or if you wish to donate your organs can be addressed in a living will.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order

A DNR tells medical providers and emergency teams not to try to restart your heart or lungs if they fail. It’s important to have this document with you, at home, or in a healthcare facility. If the DNR is with someone who lives several hours away, healthcare providers are legally bound in most states to use CPR to bring you back to life.

Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

A POLST is a written medical order from a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant for people with a chronic health condition or who are seriously ill. It addresses your wishes regarding pain medication, nutrition, intubation, and other end-of-life treatments. It should be kept with you at home or in your medical chart at a healthcare facility.

HIPAA Release

A HIPAA release allows medical providers to share and discuss your medical records with a person of your choice. This document ensures that the person most involved in your care has access to necessary information.

What Other Additional Information Is Important for Planning for Independence?

Creating a list of medications and healthcare providers is not a legal document, but it will be helpful to family members and healthcare providers if needed. List all treating physicians with their names and phone numbers. If your providers use a patient portal, find out if they permit someone else to access your account. For medications, affix labels from empty prescription bottles to a sheet of paper to provide information on the medication and the pharmacy.

All of these documents will help your family take better care of you and follow your wishes as you age. Consider it a mark of your own independence as you decide how to handle the challenges of aging.

If you are in Woodbury or the Minneapolis area, the estate planning team at Stone Arch Law Office is here to assist you with all aspects of estate planning. Book a call with our team today who is dedicated to providing exceptional service and ensuring your peace of mind.

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