Many people consider estate planning to be the realm of those who have reached retirement age, and of course statistically speaking older people pass away more frequently than do younger people. However, people of all ages would do well to have an estate plan in place because you never know what lies in wait around the next corner. Accidents do happen and we all see proof of this each day when we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper in the morning. Plus, devastating illnesses can strike without warning and they do not necessarily wait until you reach a particular age.
There is a component to the modern estate plan that lies outside of the financial planning milieu involving incapacity. As you reach an advanced age it becomes more likely that you will be unable to make sound medical decisions in your own behalf, and this is why incapacity planning is important for seniors. But of course as stated above we are all “day-to-day” as it were so every responsible adult really should have an incapacity plan in place.
Many estate planning attorneys will recommend both a health care proxy or durable medical power of attorney and a living will to their clients. With a durable medical power of attorney you select an attorney-in-fact who you empower to make health care decisions in your behalf should you become unable to make them for yourself due to incapacitation at some point in time.
With a living will you elucidate your wishes with regard to medical procedures. For example, if you would prefer not be kept alive by the use of artificial life support systems if you were in a terminal condition you could state this in your living will and your preference would be honored.
The reason why you may want to execute both documents would be to have a decision-maker in place in the event that a scenario was to arise that had not been specifically addressed in the living will.