As a person ages, they may reach a point where they can no longer care for themselves. They may need help with daily care activities or they may need in-home health care. Often, a family member steps up and takes on the role of caregiver. While this is often an act of love, it can be confusing if the caregiver does not know what the person’s wishes would be. Therefore, people in New Jersey should consider executing the following documents while they are still able, to provide guidance to their caregivers in the future.
Two documents a person may initially think of executing are a will and a living trust. Most people are familiar with wills, in which an executor designated by the person manages the person’s estate after the person’s death, and passes the estate assets on to the person’s heirs. However, it can also help to execute a living trust. This document allows a person to create a trust. The assets in this trust are then managed by a trustee once the person becomes incapacitated or passes away.
Another document is a financial power of attorney. This document designates an agent who will make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the person should the person become incapacitated. In addition, there is a health care power of attorney (a health care proxy). This document designates an agent who will make health care decisions on behalf of the person should the person become incapacitated. This includes the ability to permit or refuse any medical treatment.
And, it is important to have a living will. In this document a person lays out what medical care they want and what life-support treatment they want (or do not want). This document generally takes effect if a person is terminally ill and incapacitated or if the person is in a permanent coma.
These documents may seem relatively straight-forward, but actually can be pretty complex. If they are not executed properly, they may not be enforceable. This means that the person’s wishes will not be met and the person’s caregiver will not be able to rely on these documents to know what the person would want. State law can vary on what is necessary to make these documents effective, so those who are considering creating one or more of these documents as part of elder care planning will want to make sure they are familiar with the laws surrounding these documents before proceeding.