Some New Hampshire estate plans are quite simplistic. An individual drafts a will or possibly funds a trust. They count on their testamentary documents to control what happens to their property after their passing, and they do not engage in any additional planning. However, living documents that have authority in the event of an emergency can be as important as testamentary documents that are only useful after someone’s death.
Advance healthcare directives are some of the most important and popular living documents integrated into New Hampshire estate plans. The state currently recognizes two different advance directives.
Durable powers of attorney
When someone has an emergency and requires medical care, only their spouse or next of kin can usually communicate on their behalf. However, people do sometimes arrange to have a specific person handle their medical needs in an emergency. Durable powers of attorney have specific language included in them that allows them to retain their legal authority even if someone becomes permanently incapacitated and forever loses the ability to handle legal matters on their own account. People can name an individual they trust or even a professional fiduciary to manage their needs in a durable power of attorney.
A living will
Living wills are perhaps the document people most frequently think of when they consider addressing future medical needs in an estate plan. A living will describes an individual’s personal preferences regarding their health care. A living will could address matters including life support, pain management and even anatomical gifts.
With a living will in place, testators can feel confident that they should receive the care they prefer in an emergency. They may also derive comfort from providing clear instructions that eliminate much of the pressure their loved ones could face if they experience a medical emergency. No one should question the choices of a spouse or other agent if the testator provides clear instructions about their personal wishes.
The addition of one or both of these legal documents to an existing New Hampshire estate plan can help protect someone from the very real risk of incapacitation due to a medical emergency or declining ability as they age. Addressing personal needs in an estate plan can be as important as planning for the future needs of dependent family members.