If you are young, single and healthy, you probably give little thought to preparing a will. Perhaps you also give little thought to what happens if you should become incapacitated.
A devastating car crash could happen, or you could sustain a brain injury in a bad fall. Who would make medical and financial decisions for you? Here are two documents you should have, no matter what your age.
Designation of legal advocate
Here in Michigan, a designation of legal advocate allows you to name someone to manage your health care decisions in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make those decisions yourself. Many people choose a close relative or trusted friend to serve as their advocate. Also known as an advance health care directive, this document will also provide end-of-life instructions to physicians if required. This document ensures that your preferences for medical care are set down in writing so there will be no misunderstandings among family members or friends about your wishes.
Power of attorney
Another important legal document is a power of attorney, or POA, in which you can name an attorney-in-fact. This person—again, a family member or trusted friend of your choosing—will manage your financial affairs if you are incapable of doing so. He or she will deposit checks to your bank account, pay your mortgage and other monthly bills, file your tax returns and take care of any other financial matters in your stead. If you recover from your illness or injury, you simply resume control over your financial affairs.
There are other tools in the estate planning collection, such as a will and various kinds of trusts, and you may earmark those for consideration at some point. Meanwhile, the POA and health care directive have you protected for now.