While the main objective of estate planning is to help individuals protect their assets and provide for loved ones, there are other important considerations, such as planning for incapacity. In short, it is crucial to plan for the type of medical care people wish to receive if a serious accident or illness makes them unable to make or communicate these decisions. By putting in place advance medical directives, such as a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will or a Health Care Directive, it is possible to plan for these unexpected events.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A durable power of attorney for healthcare is commonly referred to as a healthcare proxy. This estate planning tool enables individuals to designate a trusted family member or friend to make medical care decisions in the event of incapacity. This person essentially acts as an agent, and is responsible for working with doctors and other medical professionals to ensure they provide the type of medical care the incapacitated individual prefers. If a healthcare proxy is not in place, it will be necessary for loved ones to ask the court to appoint someone make these decisions. In the end, this advance medical directive protects individuals in the event of an emergency and relieves others of the burden of going to court.
A living will is another important advance medical directive that clarifies the type of medical care an individual prefers to receive if he or she becomes terminally ill and cannot communicate decisions about end of life treatment. In particular, a living will establishes whether certain measures, such as a ventilator or a feeding tube, should be used to prolong the individual’s life
Health Care Directive
In Minnesota we use a Health Care Directive that combines the function of a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and a Living Will. With a Health Care Directive you can both appoint a health care agent to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make your own decisions and provide instructions for the type of care you would wish to receive.
Other Essential Healthcare Documents
In situations when an individual becomes critically ill and does not wish to receive extraordinary life prolonging measures, it is necessary to complete a do not resuscitate order (DNR). In the event of a medical emergency, a DNR notifies doctors, nurses and emergency personnel not to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation to keep an individual alive.
Lastly, it is also important to ensure that other healthcare providers and organizations can access an individual’s medical records and history. For this reason, it is necessary to complete a HIPAA authorization – a document required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
In the end, the possibility of becoming ill and not being able to communicate is not something most of us want to think about. However, putting in place these important advance medical directives can give you and your loved ones peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out.