When you think of estate planning, your first thoughts likely go toward drafting a last will and testament or establishing a trust. However, there are several other important components of a comprehensive estate plan that do not just address what happens after your death but during the last years of your life. Not everyone remains lucid and competent enough to adequately handle their personal and financial decisions toward the end of their lives, so it is important to have these components in place to ensure that proper care is available.
At Cozzi & Cozzi Counsellors At Law, we understand that no one wants to think about the possibility that they may lose the ability to take care of themselves. However, it is highly preferable to choose who will step in and make decisions for you while you have the ability to do so, rather than being at the mercy of the courts and your family. We can help you make these decisions and draft the necessary documents to add to your estate plan. Please find more information regarding three important legal estate planning documents below.
A living will—commonly known as an advanced directive in NJ — gives notice of what types of medical treatments you do or do not want to receive under certain circumstances. A living will does not address routine medical treatment, but instead specifically addresses whether or not you want to receive life-sustaining treatments should you become terminally ill, lose brain functioning and consciousness due to an accident, or otherwise reach your potential end of life. You can instruct whether you want to be placed on a ventilator, have feeding tubes, or receive other treatment that will prolong your life but may not improve your overall condition. Your decisions should be carefully considered based on your philosophical and religious beliefs, if applicable, as well as your wishes for your end of life. Our attorneys can personally help guide you through the often difficult process of making these decisions and can ensure that your living will accurately reflects what you want.
A healthcare proxy is a document that allows you to officially appoint someone to make decisions regarding your medical treatment should you become incapable of doing so. You should make this choice carefully based on trust that the individual will understand your wishes and act in line with them. Under New Jersey law, your healthcare representative must be at least 18 years old and most people choose their spouse, adult child, partner, close friend, or close relative to serve in this capacity. You should check with the person to make sure they will be able and willing to follow your specific wishes in your living will and that no religious beliefs or other views will prevent them from following your directive.
While a living will provides instructions for a healthcare representative in certain end of life situations, it cannot foresee any potential medical situation that may arise. If you require medical care and are unable to make decisions, though it may not be a terminal situation, your healthcare representative will be responsible for interpreting your wishes and making decisions they believe you would have wanted under the circumstances. It is important to appoint someone who knows you well enough to make such decisions. Our attorneys will assist you in making the right choice for your representative, discussing your wishes with that representative, and properly preparing your healthcare proxy.
Similar to a healthcare proxy, a power of attorney appoints an individual (called an attorney-at-fact) to make decisions for you if you lack capacity, though this person will make decisions regarding your financial affairs. An attorney-at-fact may need to take care of the following tasks and more:
A living will, healthcare proxy, and power of attorney are three very important documents to have as part of your estate plan. At the law firm of Cozzi & Cozzi Counsellors At Law, we care about your personal welfare and that of your family, and we will help you take any needed steps to protect your physical and financial well-being. If you would like experienced, individualized, and compassionate assistance with your estate plan, please call 201-939-3381 for a free consultation as soon as possible, or for assistance after hours please call 201-450-1505.