Before Colin started doing this work, I thought that estate planning was just for rich people or maybe just people with children.
There’s definitely some estate planning designed for people with lots of assets (we help people protect those assets and pass them on) and there is definitely some estate planning designed for parents (see here) but I didn’t realize how USEFUL it can be for an average professional single person or couple without kids.
Well, many of the documents that go in your Will Package have nothing to do with STUFF. They have to do with what happens to you if there’s a medical emergency. Let’s say that you are in a bad car accident. Who gets to look at your medical records? Who gets to make decisions about what surgeries to do and what kinds of medications you are given? Who gets to access your bank account or financial records?
Most importantly, it is important to know how quickly the people who you want making decisions for you able to make those decisions (with as little bureaucratic red tape as possible).
Who can make decisions for me, by law:
If you lose the ability to communicate and make decisions, Washington state law enables the following people, in order of priority, to make health care decisions for you, including withdrawing or withholding care:
- A guardian with health care decision-making authority, if one has been appointed.
- The person named in the durable power of attorney with health care decision-making authority.
- Your spouse.
- Your adult children.
- Your parents.
- Your adult brothers and sisters.
When there is more than one person, such as children, parents, or brothers and sisters, all must agree on the health care decision.
How can I make it easier?
Making your wishes known in an advance directive will provide your doctor and your agent the clear guidance necessary to respect your wishes. The medical decisions made by your health care agent (as named in your durable power of attorney for health care) is as meaningful and valid as your own. The wishes of other family members should not override your own clearly expressed choices or those made by your agent on your behalf.
You can file your wishes with your primary care physician or give the information to those you want making decisions for you so that they are prepared.
Shreya Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. She is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with her husband, Colin.