How can I make sure my wishes are carried out if I am ever unable to make decisions for myself?

The most important thing is that you clearly document your wishes in writing and make sure that your loved ones either have a copy or know how to access these documents if and when that time ever comes. Some of the documents that you certainly want to have in writing include items such as a healthcare surrogate to appoint somebody to make medical decisions for you; a living will, if you know you don’t want to be kept on life support in the even of, more or less, certain death; also a HIPAA authorization providing access to healthcare information for your loved ones; perhaps a declaration naming pre-need guardian, where you have determined in advance who you’d want to act as your guardian, if that was ever necessary; and also a living trust. It doesn’t make sense for everybody, but for many people it’s a very powerful tool that can enable a successor trustee to step into your shoes and manage financial assets.

For those not going with a living trust option, they definitely should have a durable power of attorney, and those with a trust should have it as well. The durable power of attorney is similar in that it appoints somebody to make financial decisions for you if you can’t make your own.

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