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The Healthcare Power Of Attorney And Living Will

The purpose of this article is to explain what a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will are and why you should consider including these tools as a part of your estate plan.

What Is A Healthcare Power Of Attorney And Living Will?

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document where you can nominate an individual to act as your agent and make healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated or are unable to communicate your healthcare preferences to a physician. A Living Will, which is generally contained within the Healthcare Power of Attorney document, is your opportunity to indicate your preferences for end-of-life treatment. Some of the options in the Living Will people have never thought of before. For example, if you are diagnosed with an incurable, irreversible, and terminal condition, do you want to receive CPR? Electric shock? Artificial nutrition or hydration? Or would you prefer not to have that treatment? In the Living Will you can indicate your preferences for or against certain healthcare treatment in the event you are in a terminal, incurable and irreversible condition.

Why Should I Have A Heathcare Power Of Attorney And Living Will?

Some may ask why a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will should be part of an estate plan. After all, they say, these documents do not transfer any property, like a Living Trust or Last Will and Testament would. While it is true that a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will do not address or resolve any issues relating to management and distribution of personal or real property, these documents do address the most important part of a person’s life: their own body.

Although you may be perfectly healthy at the moment, this is not something you should take for granted. Have you expressed your wishes to your family? Are they willing to carry out those wishes? Will they fight with each other about what they think you “would have wanted”? Without a valid Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will, the court may have to resolve these disputes by appointing a guardian to make healthcare decisions for you. The selection of a guardian would be based on the statutes, which isn’t necessarily consistent with your wishes. Having a valid Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will provides greater clarity as to your lifetime treatment and end-of-life wishes, making it easier for your loved ones and physicians to act on your behalf.

Who Should I Nominate As My Agent?

You may wonder who to select as your agent. Your agent is the individual you choose to have power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Apart from needing to be at least 18 years of age, it is up to you on who you choose. We do, however, provide the following suggestions:

  • Many people choose their spouse as the first choice for agent, although this is not a requirement.
  • Most people choose someone who is geographically near to them so that person can get to the hospital/healthcare facility faster than someone out-of-state or out-of-country.
  • Some people prefer to choose a trusted friend who works in the medical field. They feel that having an agent who is familiar with medical processes and procedures may make a better choice on their behalf. This, of course, is not a requirement.
  • Above all, choose someone you trust to honor your wishes. Medical know-how is helpful, however, ultimately your physician will be the most knowledgeable about the healthcare treatment options available.

Just as important as who you choose as your agent(s), is who you choose as alternate, or back-up, agents. Things come up in life and your first choice of agent may be unwilling or unable to act in that capacity. We recommend selecting at least two alternate agents.

CONCLUSION

A Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will is an important document for everyone to have, regardless of how healthy they currently are. At Donaldson Stewart, P.C. we work with you to create a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will that is customized to fit your individual estate planning goals and objectives. We provide advice and assistance throughout the process. Feel free to contact us today to learn more and speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.