Newman Law Group

Power of attorney vital in establishing end-of-life care

People frequently know the expiration dates on food in the refrigerator, a driver's license, medication and even a passport. One expiration date no one can know, in California or anywhere, is one's own. Coy Luther Perry III, better known as Luke Perry, the actor, died March 9 after suffering two strokes. He was just 52 years old. He had had a cancer scare in 2015 and established an estate plan at that time, most likely including a medical power of attorney.

The first stroke was severe and left the actor surviving by means of life support. Five days following the first stroke the family decided to terminate life support as it had become apparent he had probably suffered a second stroke and would not recover. The fact that the family was able to make the decision and have that decision respected indicates a medical power of attorney probably existed. Without it, especially if the family had not been able to agree, the decision would have been left to a probate court and a possibly a long, drawn out and public process.

By having medical directives made clear in a medical power of attorney, also known as an advance directive, a person can help ensure that his or her wishes regarding end-of-life decisions are respected. A lesson that can be taken from Luke Perry's death is that one should not wait until one is "old" to establish an estate plan. While strokes are considered more of a risk when one is older, 10 percent of strokes happen to people who are not yet 50. Estate planning simply cannot be done too soon.

Establishing an estate plan and setting up a medical power of attorney should be considered by every adult, regardless of age. No one knows one's expiration date, and expiring without a plan in place can take the control of one's estate out of the hands of one's family and place it in the courts. An experienced estate planning attorney in California can review one's assets, liabilities and other issues to help come up with a comprehensive estate plan.

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