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Why 'comfort planning' should be part of your estate plan

A third of all people over 50 who break a hip die within the following year. That's a frightening statistic. Even if you're among the two-thirds who don't suffer this fate, your overall health can take a turn for the worse after a serious accident or injury in your senior years -- even if you don't get cancer or any number of debilitating illnesses that can strike people as they get older.

We'd all like some say in what happens to us if we become incapacitated or seriously ill. However, too often, people don't put the necessary documents in place because they don't want to think about it or they just assume that their family will care for them.

This is just one more reason not to put off your estate planning. A comprehensive estate plan should include what's sometimes called "comfort planning." That involves designating what types of medical intervention you want under various circumstances and at the end of your life.

It also includes designating one or more people who will have the authority to oversee your care and other aspects of your life. You can give people you know and trust powers of attorney over your health care and finances should you become incapacitated.

By doing this, you avoid the risk of a court giving someone you may not even know these responsibilities. Unfortunately, not all court-appointed fiduciaries have the best interests of those they're designated to care for at heart.

People who don't have children or other living family members can designate friends or others they trust to have these responsibilities. They can further help ensure that they get the appropriate care by detailing their wishes in their advanced health care directive and other estate planning documents.

Whether you have plenty of family members whom you know will care for you or you're the last in your family's bloodline, the best way to ensure that your wishes are known and carried out when you aren't able to speak for yourself is to include them in your estate plan.

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