We’ve gone over some difficult questions which always come up when planning an estate, one in particular of the type hopefully covered by your up-to-date Advance Health-Care Directive (otherwise known as a “Medical Power of Attorney,” otherwise “Living Will”). Not having the aforementioned document can lead to heightened stress for family members, and in some extreme cases legal battles stretching for months or years, adding to the already extreme financial burden life support places on many families around the country. Many of us still remember the frenzied debate over the right to die triggered by Terry Schiavo back in the early 2000s, as well as the more recent discussion triggered by Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her own life. Putting your wishes down in writing can potentially save your family tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary medical examinations, legal counseling, and litigation fees.
One of the ways in which a health care directive is effective is in designating a Health-Care Agent–someone who, in the case where you are rendered incapacitated, can perform administrative tasks necessary to your care according to your written instructions. This includes forwarding your medical information to health care providers, signing medical documents on your behalf, and choosing what facilities to attend. When it comes down to the tough decisions, such as when to move into hospice or hospital care, when/whether to insert a feeding tube, and when to have doctors stay the inevitable, your Health-Care Agent will be the one to make the determination. Accordingly, most people choose someone who knows them well, such as their spouse, partner or other family member.
While this may seem like a lot of free-wielding power to hand over to a person, regardless of how close he/she was to you, it is infinitely better than leaving such decisions up to a judge in open-to-public court, subject to fees and delays. The specificity conveyed in an Advance Health-Care Directive helps to ensure that your wishes are followed, lessening the stress and potential conflict that comes with leaving such decisions to the rest of your loved ones.
There are a number of different ways to record your wishes, but putting them down in an Advance Health-Care Directive is the best way to ensure that, in the case of unexpected tragedy, nothing will be left to chance.
Be sure to check out the American Bar Association’s “Myths and Facts About Health Care Advance Directives.” More information about estate planning can also be found at our website here. Otherwise, feel free to call our office with any questions at (808) 942-8778.