Medical directives are essential additions to your estate plan, but with so many options you may be feeling stuck about how to proceed. Each person will have unique needs when it comes to their medical care and decisions, which is why we emphasize the importance of one-on-one conversations and compassionate communication to determine how best to help you through this process.
Here is a quick introduction to some of the choices you have for medical directives, as well as additional considerations you may want to account for.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that gives authority for certain decisions and acts to an agent. From a medical perspective, you can allow your agent to sign medical documents or make care decisions for you if you are unable. It is important to note that whatever actions you decide to grant to your agent, you must list them in the power of attorney. There are also additional requirements and exceptions involved, which is why working with a qualified attorney is recommended.
Another option is a living will, which allows you to decide how you want your care handled. Theoretically, the power is in your hands when you create a living will because you make your medical decisions ahead of time and include the provisions in the document. However, you may find it difficult to think of every eventuality.
In the event that a decision needs to be made that you did not include directions for, the responsibility will usually fall to your spouse or another close family member.
Health Care Surrogate Form
Similar to a durable power of attorney, and sometimes referred to as a medical power of attorney, a health care surrogate form allows you to nominate someone to make medical decisions for you. A key difference between the two is that a health care surrogate only gains decision-making power when a doctor declares you incapacitated.
Mental Health Advance Directive
If you have specific concerns regarding mental health due to personal or family history, a mental health advance directive should be considered. An advance directive lets you detail your end-of-life care choices. A mental health advance directive does the same thing but specifically involves mental health care. This is especially important, because if your mental health or cognition starts to decline, you may lack the capacity to create a valid legal document.
Medical professionals and facilities are bound by privacy and information laws dictated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Basically, this means that the details of your health condition and care are legally required to be kept confidential. This can lead to complications for your agent or surrogate, so it is a good idea to include a release document along with your medical directive. It may also be beneficial to provide a copy of your directive to your physician, so they are aware of your choices ahead of time.
For more information on signing requirements, state regulations, or for help deciding which document you should choose, our helpful staff can be reached at 727-477-2255.