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January 27, 2013

VETERANS CORNER: Disabled veterans should plan ahead

By JIM VINES

If you become incapacitated, even temporarily, and cannot make medical and financial decisions, who would do it for you?

Without written documents assigning someone to handle all affairs, a court may be requested to appoint a guardian. This sometimes costly court process is easily avoided with powers of attorney for medical care and financial affairs. This also eliminates the family infighting and disputes. With a few documents in place, wishes will be followed and the individual(s) will handle the medical and financial needs as stipulated.

Here are the disability and end-of life-planning documents to be considered:

• A living will – A living will, sometimes called an Advanced Medical Directive, is not a will at all. It is a brief document that expresses desires for care if found terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state. It does not appoint someone to make decisions. Issues such as feeding and hydration, medical procedures, medication to be administered, etc. should be addressed. This document can be customized to suit preferences or religious beliefs.

•  Appointment of Health Care Agent – This is a “springing” and “durable” power of attorney. It is “springing” because it takes effect upon incapacity. It is “durable” because it does not expire on incapacity like some powers of attorney. More importantly, it appoints someone called an “agent” to make medical and end of life decisions in case of incapacity. The agent’s decisions must be consistent with desires stipulated in this document or a living will.

•  Durable springing financial power of attorney – Like the Appoint of Health Care Agent, this financial power of attorney only takes effect upon incapacity and continues in effect even after incapacitation. It is a seven-page document that expresses broad financial desires and gives the agent powers to make financial decisions.

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