Even if you are single, you don’t want to be left with your health care in question should you become suddenly ill, according to Morningstar in “2 Estate-Planning Tools That Singles Should Consider.” How do you prepare for such an event? The answer is a robust Health Care Proxy.
People who don’t have children or a married spouse, often think they don’t need any kind of estate plan. However, the truth is, they do. For singles, power of attorney, and a health care proxy are especially important.
What is a Health Care Proxy? In New York, a health care proxy is a combination of a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will, sometimes also called advance medical directives.
If properly drafted, a health care proxy is a legal document that gives a person you name the ability to make decisions about healthcare for you if you can’t. To some people, this matters more than a living will, because the durable power of attorney for healthcare can convey your wishes in situations, where you are not terminally ill, but incapacitated. In New York, only one health care agent at a time may act, co-agents are not permitted. Equally importantly, you need to communicate to your primary and back up agents the details of your wishes if you are in a situation where life-sustaining treatment is the only way to keep you alive. Would you want to remain on a respirator, have a feeding tube or have other extreme measures used? It’s not pleasant to think about. However, this is an opportunity for you to make this decision on your own behalf, for a possible future date when you won’t be able to convey your wishes. Some people want to stay alive, no matter what. Others would prefer to turn off any artificial means of life support.
Communicating this information to your health care agent or agents spares your loved ones from having to guess about what you might like to have happen in a health crisis.
Find someone you trust, whose judgment you respect, and have a long, serious talk with them. Talk about your preferences for blood transfusions, organ transplants, disclosure about your medical records and more. Doctors have a hard time when a group of relatives and friends are all trying to help, if there is no one person who has been named as your health care agent.
What else does a single person need? In addition to a health care proxy, a single person should have a will so that they can designate who will receive their assets upon death. They also should check on their beneficiary designations from time to time to ensure that the proceeds of any insurance policies, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and any other assets that allow beneficiary designations are going to the correct person. Some accounts also do not permit non-spouses as beneficiaries. As unfair as this is, it does occur.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your particular circumstances and can include crucial documents that you may need in the future.
Reference: Morningstar (April 23, 2019) “2 Estate-Planning Tools That Singles Should Consider”