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My mom's health is declining. What should be in her estate plan?

It is never easy to watch a parent's health suddenly worsen, and it can be uncomfortable to discuss what might happen in the event that it does not improve. Many adult children in Oklahoma believe that they understand their parents' medical wishes and can handle important decisions if necessary, but this is rarely the case. It is often much safer for an estate plan to include a living will -- also referred to as a medical directive -- and a health care power of attorney.

Unlike tradition wills that dictate what should happen to an estate's assets after a person's death, a living will is used to outline the types of medical care with which a person is comfortable in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. A living will can specify whether an individual is comfortable with life support and, if so, for what period of time. Other types of medical interventions can also be given the green light or left off the table.

A living will by itself is not sufficient to ensure that a person's wishes are truly respected. A trusted individual can be made legally responsible for these decisions by utilizing a health care power of attorney. Many people name their own spouses to fill this role, although it is not widely encouraged to do so, as a living, non-incapacitated spouse would be able to make these decisions without a legal document. Instead, a child or trusted friend can be named in the power of attorney and step in if necessary.

For some, planning for end-of-life care can be more upsetting than deciding what should happen to an estate after death. No matter how confusing or difficult this period of time might be, the consequences of failing to create a living will or power attorney as part of a complete estate plan can have devastating implications. When Oklahoma parents are hesitant to move forward with this aspect of estate planning, their adult children often play critical roles in helping them accomplish their goals.

Source: gobankingrates.com, "Your Estate Planning Checklist: How to Create a Financially Sound Estate Plan", Natalie Campisi, June 22, 2016

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