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Estate planning isn't only for what happens after death

Wills, trusts and beneficiary designations are words often associated with planning for what happens after a Delaware resident's death. What about words like power of attorney, health care directive and living will? These aspects of estate planning are equally as important to the process because they focus on taking care of an individual during life in the event that they become unable to make decisions for or otherwise take care of themselves at some point due to age, accident or illness.

Who will make health care decisions under these circumstances? Without proper planning, that might be up to a Delaware court instead of the incapacitated person. Family members may end up in court arguing over who should have the right to make these decisions, and in the meantime, the individual may need more immediate attention. A health care power of attorney could appoint someone of the individual's choosing to take care of this crucial task.

Who will pay the bills and take care of other financial decisions? Again, without planning, the courts may be deciding who will handle these tasks. Instead, the individual could make that decision beforehand. He or she would also have the opportunity to limit the financial tasks the agent handles. These documents could also require certification from a doctor or some other appropriate authority in order for them to be used.

Maintaining control of how things progress is one of the primary purposes of estate planning. Failing to use this power for incapacitation could end up being a mistake. There is nothing wrong with an individual taking care of his or herself first before making arrangements to care for everyone else after death.

Source: Forbes, "The Biggest Estate Planning Mistake People Make," Brad Wiewel, Aug. 16, 2017

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