Traditional Estate Planning
For traditional estate planning there are generally, relatively few options, though they must be drafted well. There are four basic documents:
- The Last Will and Testament
- The Living Will
- The Medical Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care Decisions
- The General Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Most people generally understand that the Will is the document that gives the Personal Representative (formerly, “Executor”) the right and power to transfer assets and title to the assets to whomever is designated in the Will
The Living Will
The Living Will is the “pull-the-plug” document. This document tells the Health Care Provider that you do not want to be kept alive on life support under certain circumstances. The basic circumstances are that if you are comatose – unable to make medical conditions for yourself – and if you are diagnosed by two qualified doctors to be in a terminal condition or a Persistent Vegetative State, you want procedures followed, suspended or terminated.
- A "Terminal condition" means an incurable or irreversible condition for which the administration of life-sustaining procedures will serve only to prolong the dying process.
- A “Persistent vegetative state" is defined by reference to the criteria and definitions employed by prevailing community medical standards of practice. Though not defined by statute, a common medical definition of “persistent vegetative state” is a condition of profound non-responsiveness in the wakeful state caused by brain damage at any level and characterized by a nonfunctioning cerebral cortex, absence of response to the external environment, akinesia (absence, poverty, or loss of control of voluntary muscle movements), mutism (a rare childhood condition characterized by a consistent failure to speak in situations where talking is expected), and inability to signal.
The Medical Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions
This document allows you to select someone (called your “agent”) to make health care decisions for you, generally if you cannot make them for yourself. It is best that this document be consistent with your Living Will and it is also a good idea to have one or more successor-Agents who can act if your original agent cannot or does not want to act as your Agent
The General Durable Financial Power of Attorney
This document allows you to select someone (called your “agent”) to make decisions for you that are other than health care decisions, generally if you cannot make them for yourself. It is best that this document has one or more successor-Agents who can act if your original agent cannot or does not want to act as your Agent