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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What is an Advance Medical Directive?

Let’s face it: anyone can suffer a serious injury or illness at any time and be unable to manage their affairs or make decisions about their healthcare. One way to protect yourself, your assets and your loved ones is by consulting with an estate planning attorney about advance medical directives, such as a healthcare proxy and a living will.

What is a healthcare proxy?

A healthcare proxy -- or durable power of attorney for healthcare -- allows you to designate a trusted person such as a spouse, a parent, an adult child, or a close friend to make medical decisions according to your preferences. This person will act as your agent by coordinating your medical care with your physician when you cannot make these decisions independently or communicate your wishes. If you fail to prepare a healthcare proxy, your loved ones will have to ask the court to appoint someone to make these decisions -- which may not agree with your wishes. Not only will creating a healthcare proxy relieve them of this burden, it will also ensure that you receive the care you prefer.

What is a living will?

People often confuse the terms “will” and “living will.” A will is the most basic estate planning document that establishes how your assets will be managed and distributed upon your death. A living will, on the other hand, is a type of advance medical directive that declares the type of end-of-life treatment you wish to receive or have withheld. Having a living will in place will give you peace of mind that you will receive the care you prefer. Additionally, if you are incapacitated or terminally ill, a living will can specify which life-saving measures, such as a ventilator or feeding tube, you may want withheld.

Other Important Healthcare Documents

If you become critically ill and prefer not to receive extraordinary life-prolonging measures, it is also necessary to complete a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), order. In short, a DNR will order doctors, nurses and ER personnel not to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to preserve your life in the event of an emergency.

The last document you will need to complete is a HIPAA Authorization -- a requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This authorization will ensure that your medical records can be accessed by healthcare providers and family members.

Why This Matters

Although many think of estate planning in terms of their passing, a well-conceived plan will also protect you today by including the necessary advance medical directives. The surest way to protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of incapacity, is to work with a trustworthy estate planning attorney.

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