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Advance health care directives for single people

When considering estate planning, many Philadelphia residents focus on how to best transfer wealth to their children and grandchildren. For single people, the focus is often on incapacitation planning. While everyone should center their estate plan on a properly drafted will, there are a wide range of other documents that can round out one's planning package. For singles, a medical power of attorney and advance health care directives should play a central role within the estate planning process.

When a serious illness or injury occurs, the medical staff tasked with providing both emergency and follow-up care will look for guidance in how to proceed. For married persons, one's spouse is usually the individual who will direct the course of care. Singles, however, present more of a challenge, as there is often no indication of who should be trusted to guide the decision-making process. This is why a medical power of attorney is important.

A medical power of attorney is the legal documentation that designates an individual to act in one's stead during a medical emergency. However, in order to attain the best possible outcome, an additional step should be taken in the creation of an advance health care directive. This document outlines the type and scope of care that in individual would like to receive if the need should arise.

An advance directive can be as detailed and specific as one wishes. For example, many people feel strongly that they do not want to be kept on life support in the event of a serious and permanent brain injury. By including such directives in a legal document, it is easier for one's chosen health care representative to make and enforce such choices. Other issues that are commonly included within advance directives are organ transplants, the use of certain drugs and repetitive resuscitation attempts.

Wills form an important centerpiece of many estate planning packages, and single people should begin by drafting a will that can address matters of inheritance. However, unmarried Philadelphia residents must also address the risk of incapacitation, and should designate an individual to direct the course of health care if such a need should arise. By creating a medical power of attorney and advance health care directives, an individual can create a plan for the worst case scenario, one that will hopefully never need to be called into action.   

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning For Single People", Douglass Rothermich, June 18, 2015

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