It’s human nature to avoid some conversations and when we can’t avoid them, we find ourselves stumbling over the words that must be said. Planning ahead for our medical futures and ultimately, death, is as crucial as it is disconcerting.
We create estate plans for the future but as many estate planning lawyers can attest to, the moment end of life decisions are mentioned, many clients find themselves a bit hesitant. Despite all the medical breakthroughs over the past six decades, the most we can hope for is a well-lived life – temporary though it is. Once we master those realities, we’re better able to plan for the future so that our families are not left struggling, whether those struggles are financial or medical related.
The last thing any of us want, too, is for our loved ones to wonder how far is acceptable when it comes to terminal illnesses or life on a ventilator. With so many right to die cases making headlines these days, it’s an ideal reminder that a health care proxy, living will or medical directive serve a powerful purpose.
There are massive changes ahead for all things related to health care in the U.S. There are strict privacy considerations, courtesy of HIPAA, and as a result, it’s never been more important to have these documents in place. Otherwise, not only will the burden be placed on your family members, but they might spend the rest of their lives wondering if their decision was one you would have chosen for yourself.
Estate planning lawyers will often encourage their clients to not underestimate the importance of these documents in their planning efforts. But what exactly are they and how do they differ?
The Health Care Proxy
These are sometimes referred to as health care powers of attorney. Should you become incapacitated, this document allows someone of your choosing the authority to speak on your behalf for things related to your medical care. In doing so, there are never any questions over what you might want for yourself since you’ve already made your wishes clear. It can also prevent hurt feelings or other problems within your family.
These are used only when you are unable to communicate your wishes. Remember, though, that each state has its own laws, so if you move, you’ll want to consult a financial planning lawyer in your new state and set the dynamics up there.
These too are sometimes known by another name: advance directives and their purpose is to work in tandem with a traditional healthcare proxy. These provide the instructions on the care you wish to have when you’re incapacitated. It may contain directions to refuse or remove life support in the event you are in a coma or what’s commonly referred to as a vegetative state. Further, it will provide detailed instructions on what efforts are acceptable to you in order to keep you alive.
Living wills instruct caretakers and medical professionals of the types of conditions where any life support or life sustaining efforts should be terminated. This too only goes into effect if you’re unable to speak for yourself. Many like the idea of a living will because of the ability for the principal to make changes as his needs change. The difference in a living will and its health care proxy or medical directive is that it only provides guidance on withdrawing life support.
Ready to put these dynamics in place? An elder care lawyer can help secure all of the necessary documents.
To learn more, please download the free New York Advance Care Planning and End of Life Choices report.