Estate planning isn’t just about determining what happens to your monetary assets. It’s also about determining what happens to your physical body, specifically if you become incapacitated or unable to make health care decisions on your own. Indeed, the use of an advance health care directive can help you outline your wishes and expectations, should you ever be in a position where you are unable to voice them yourself.
But what are the important things to know about these directives, and about their place in a proper estate plan? Here are a few commonly asked questions, with answers provided by a health care directive attorney.
What are advance directives?
Simply put, an advance health care directive is a legal document in which individuals express their wishes about the type of care they would like to receive, should they ever become unable to make their own decisions.
When do advance directives go into effect?
An advance health care directive doesn’t have any legally binding impact until the individual is found to be incapacitated, e.g., in a coma or a vegetative state. Only when physicians make this diagnosis does the advance directive become effective. But, if you are still able to speak and articulate your wishes, the advance health care directive doesn’t really do anything.
What treatments are covered?
Generally speaking, advance health care directives pertain to any kind of treatment that might support or sustain life, such as the use of an artificial breathing machine or feeding tubes. The primary role of an advance directive is to dictate if and when you wish to be taken off of these life-supporting machines.
What’s the difference between a living will and a power of attorney?
In the conversation about health care directives, you may come across two specific types of legal documents, the living will and the power of attorney. These documents do different things, and you may wish to include each of them in your estate plan.
A living will is meant to outline the kinds of treatment you would or would not like to receive should you ever find yourself in need of life support. A power of attorney, on the other hand, actually appoints another person to be your legal representative, and to make important decisions in your stead. For example, a health care power of attorney names someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so on your own. A financial power of attorney appoints someone to make business and financial decisions on your behalf. Again, you may ultimately wish to include each of these documents in your estate plan.
Can I amend my health care directive?
Definitely! If your wishes or your values change, you can always revise your document. We highly recommend doing so under the guidance of an advance directive attorney.
Does everyone need an advance health care directive?
Most of us feel strongly about end-of-life care and want to make sure our ultimate wishes are upheld; as such, we recommend these documents for anyone over the age of 18. Even if you are young and in good health, you never know for sure what tomorrow holds, and it’s best to be ready for all contingencies.
If you have any additional questions about implementing a health care directive or power of attorney, we invite you to reach out to Singh Law Firm. Contact us at your next opportunity and make an appointment to speak with a health care directive attorney from our firm.