Estate planning is about more than just what happens after you die. Living trusts, for instance, can distribute assets you own while you are still healthy and whole. And Illinois has options for you even when you’re not healthy – so that decisions are made in accordance with your wishes, rather than a doctor or team of medical professionals who may not know you at all.
Power of attorney
Advance directives are a way for a person to express their wishes with respect to medical care, in the event they become unable to do so. An accident, disease or other impairment can make it impossible for someone to say what they do or do not want under the circumstances.
A healthcare power of attorney passes that authority to someone you trust. Should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions, the person you designate as your agent makes them for you, in accordance with your wishes. If you have specific instructions, you can give them to the agent in advance and they are required to abide by them. Otherwise, the agent has broad authority. Unless you include one, a power of attorney does not have a time limit. But even if you don’t include a time limit, you can revoke the power at any time.
A living will differs from a power of attorney in that it is meant for the medical community as a whole, rather than a specific person (your agent). In the living will, you state whatever specific actions you do or do not want taken or any procedures you do or do not want performed. So long as your doctor is aware of the will, they are required to follow your wishes.
Another difference is that, for a living will to take effect, you must have a terminal condition. So, for instance, if you were in a car accident and lapsed into a coma, but were not expected to die, the living will does not come into play. Having both a power of attorney and a living covers all scenarios and ensures that this facet of your estate planning has been thoroughly executed.