Health Care Decisions Need to Be Made While Healthy
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
May 28, 2020
Estate planning is about more than what happens to your assets when you pass away, it’s also about protecting yourself at the end of your life. It’s critical to have a plan for how important healthcare decisions will be made if you’re unable to make them yourself.
As with many other aspects of estate planning, the time to make these healthcare decisions is when you’re still healthy. If an injury or illness renders you incapacitated, then it’s already too late to make serious choices about your care.
You need a plan that encompasses your wishes. This way, it will help to guide your family in making medical decisions on your behalf or to petition the court for a guardianship. Here’s what you need to know about making a plan for your care if you cannot make your voice heard in a moment it matters most.
Two Important Documents
In order for your wishes to be carried out and for your family to be spared from making tough choices in high-stress situations, your wishes need to be put in writing. In general, you need two advanced care directives to accomplish this: a health care power of attorney (HCS) and a living will.
Through an HCS, you can authorize a surrogate such as a trusted friend, child, or spouse to consent to medical treatment or make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot do so yourself. While it may seem similar to a living will, it is actually much broader. A living will usually only covers end-of-life scenarios where you are expressing your wishes to not be kept alive artificially. While it can overlap with an HCS, they are different.
Living wills may also be called advance directives, directives to physicians, or health care directives.
Through a living will, you can express your preferences for the use of life-sustaining medical procedures. These can include artificial breathing or feeding, invasive diagnostics, surgery, and the use of pain medication. You can specify in your living will which procedures you consent to having and which ones you’d like withheld.
You can also include a do not resuscitate order, also known as a DNR, in your living will. This instructs that in the event of a cardiac arrest, medical personnel are not to perform CPR or take other life-saving measures.
It’s important that you create a living will with the help of an estate planning attorney. It needs to be as concise as possible so that your wishes are not misunderstood. You must also ensure the person who has your HCS has a copy of your living will and understands it completely because, after all, they are likely the ones to honor it.
Now Is the Time to Make Healthcare Decisions
HCS and living wills are not only for older people or those that have health issues. There’s nothing certain about life. If you want your wishes heard, then you need to spell them out in documents such as these well before you think you may need them. Otherwise, your family and friends will be left making decisions on your behalf that they may not be sure about. That’s an uncomfortable position to be in for them, not to mention they may act differently than you would.
Take the stress off yourself and your loved ones by making your voice heard now when it comes to healthcare decisions. Our office is happy to help. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch today!
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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