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Lombard power of attorney lawyerCoronavirus concerns has many people putting estate plans at a much higher priority than normally. Although the chances of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus are low for most Americans, it may still be a good idea to start implementing an estate plan. One important aspect of a comprehensive estate plan is a medical power of attorney or power of attorney for healthcare. By appointing a medical power of attorney for healthcare, you ensure that your medical decisions will be made by someone you trust if you cannot make these decisions on your own.  

Power of Attorney for Healthcare Basics

Many people assume that estate planning is only necessary if they are sick or elderly, however, it is best to create an estate plan while you are healthy and able to make clear decisions. An unexpected accident or illness can happen to anyone at any time. If you were seriously hurt or sick and could not tell doctors what your medical wishes were, you would probably want a trusted loved one who knows your preferences to make these decisions on your behalf. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to choose an agent who will be responsible for making your healthcare decisions if you cannot do so yourself. The term “power of attorney for healthcare” is often used to refer to the legal document as well as the person acting as your agent.

Who Should Be My Agent?

Being someone’s healthcare power of attorney is a serious responsibility. It is important to choose an agent who is capable of adequately handling this responsibility. Your agent should also be someone you trust implicitly and are comfortable sharing personal information with. Many people choose a spouse, family member, or close friend to be their agent. If you choose an agent and then circumstances change and you no longer want this person to be your agent, you have the ability to choose a new agent by drafting a new healthcare power of attorney document. You may want your healthcare power of attorney to also be your financial power of attorney or you may want to assign these roles to two different individuals.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe World Health Organization estimates that about 50 million people throughout the world currently suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60-70 percent of all dementia cases. Watching a loved one with dementia suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment can be heartbreaking, especially if that loved one is your spouse. If your husband or wife has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another health issue that affects cognitive function, you may worry about his or her ability to make important decisions. One way you may obtain the ability to make decisions on behalf of your spouse is through legal guardianship.  

Types of Guardianships in Illinois

When a person cannot communicate his or her needs or make rational decisions, a loved one may choose to establish guardianship so that he or she can make decisions on the person’s behalf. The Illinois Probate Act describes several types of guardianship including limited guardianship, plenary guardianship, guardianship of a person, guardianship of the estate, and more. If your spouse has dementia but is still able to make some decisions on his or her own, a limited guardianship may be appropriate. If you become a “limited guardian,” you will be permitted to make any decisions about your spouse’s finances, medical treatment, and personal care that he or she cannot make on his or her own, but the scope of those decisions will generally be limited by the court that grants the guardianship.

If your spouse has significant impairment, a plenary guardianship will allow you to make all of the decisions about his or her finances and care. Guardianship of the estate is used to ensure that a disabled person’s financial affairs are properly managed. If you are unsure as to what guardianship is appropriate for your particular situation, speak with an estate planning attorney to receive personalized guidance.

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Lombard family law attorneyAlso referred to in the state of Illinois as a POLST—practitioner orders for life-sustaining treatment—a do-not-resuscitate order can give you and your loved ones great peace of mind knowing your health wishes are officially documented should you be unable to make decisions about your own health matters. In the event of severe injury or illness, a DNR becomes a valuable advance directive document, so you may decide to include one when making your other estate planning arrangements.

How a DNR Is Different

Generally, federal law requires that every person admitted to a health care facility is informed of their to right to make an advance directive. The Patient Self-Determination Act requires not all, but many, providers to present information on advance directives to patients under their care. Unlike other advance directives, such as a power of attorney or living will, a do-not-resuscitate order exists to specifically address the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should your heart or breathing stop. Additionally, its purpose is to express your desires regarding any life-sustaining treatment.

While these wishes can be expressed in a living will, a DNR is an order that must be signed by both you and your practitioner. Its primary purpose is to decline resuscitation. A living will is a personal legal document used to convey this preference, as well as other healthcare wishes, such as your desire to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. A living will is more involved and can be as detailed as you would like it to be. Similarly, a health care power of attorney is used to appoint an “agent” to make healthcare decisions for you on your behalf, and its use is very broad and flexible in terms of expressing your healthcare wishes.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyChoosing a beneficiary for your will, trust, or life insurance policy might at first seem like a relatively simple task. For some, a specific person automatically comes to mind--someone they know, care for, and trust--and the decision is made. For others, though, the task can feel tedious. Depending on your financial circumstances, designating someone as beneficiary can place a significant amount of responsibility on the inheritor.

A Multi-Faceted Inheritance

Notice the word inheritor. Typically, the beneficiary of a will, trust, or life insurance policy is set to inherit something to their advantage. They receive benefits, profits, or funds from a particular account or policy, designated to them by whatever estate planning tool you choose to utilize. While this can certainly be a positive turn of events for the inheritor in the midst of your passing, it can still mean a lot of responsibility, as receiving funds can also mean receiving a burdensome responsibility.

Sadly, tense arguments and disagreements can arise between families and loved ones when a certain friend or family member inherits money. Decisions must be made by the recipient regarding any property, possessions, or monetary funds inherited, which can be emotionally and mentally taxing for anyone involved. While you cannot predict or control how everyone will interpret and respond to your choice of inheritor, you do have a say in who you would like to assign these responsibilities to, should you document your wishes well in advance.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is a fact that many avoid thinking about, but unexpected illnesses and accidents happen to people every day. A living will is a type of advance medical directive that identifies the types of medical care you do and do not want if you cannot speak for yourself due to a major illness or injury. Through a living will, you decide in advance whether you want treatments such as dialysis, artificial ventilation, or a feeding tube to be used if you are incapacitated. Not only does a living will put you in charge of your future medical care, it also saves your loved ones the burdensome task of making important medical decisions on your behalf. If you are considering using a living will to specify your future medical wishes, you may be wondering, “When does a living will take effect?”

Determining When a Person Is Unable to Articulate Medical Wishes

A living will is used when a person has a terminal condition and is unable to express his or her wishes about death-delaying procedures. A terminal condition is typically defined as a medical condition that is incurable and will result in imminent death. The Illinois Living Will Act regulates the rules regarding living wills. In a living will, you will give a declaration explaining directions for medical care should you be unable to express these directions yourself. The declaration reads in part, “In the absence of my ability to give directions...it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored… as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical treatment.”

A living will goes into effect when your physician decides that you can no longer express your own healthcare decisions and certifies this in writing. To make this determination, doctors typically consider whether the patient can:

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