We are currently in the midst of a pandemic and there is no end in sight. During these uncertain times, you need to ensure that your planning is up-to-date, especially those related to healthcare decisions. The two documents in your estate plan that relate to medical care are: the Medical Power of Attorney and the Advance Healthcare Directive.
The Medical Power of Attorney is rather simple, but has a crucial purpose. This document allows you to name a person to make medical decisions on your behalf or communicate your wishes if you are unable to. Meanwhile, the Advance Healthcare Directive, commonly know as a Living Will, clearly spells out your wishes for the end of your life. For example, it can explain whether or not you want to be placed on life support if you are in a persistent vegetative state or have a terminal illness. Although it is one of the least commonly discussed documents in an estate plan, it is equally as important as the other documents.
When reviewing your advance healthcare directives, it is crucial to determine what you wishes are and that you meet with estate planning attorney to ensure that these wishes are properly reflected. Additionally, you should have a meaningful discussion with the person you designate to make these healthcare decisions for you if the time ever were to come. This conversation can be uncomfortable, but your care should reflect your wishes.
Beliefs Related to Healthcare or End-of-Life Care
Do you have any spiritual, religious, or personal beliefs that relate to end-of-life care? For example, what are your beliefs about blood transfusions, organ donation, or artificial life support? Do you want clergy or other spiritual or religious leaders at your bedside before you pass away? An advance healthcare directive is crucial for documenting these beliefs and wishes. It can also require that the healthcare decision-maker honors these wishes.
The advance medical directive can also help your healthcare decision-maker understand the types of treatment you do or do not want administered. Depending on the situation, there could be a variety of treatments or interventions available. These include, but are not limited to, experimental drugs or procedures, ventilators, feeding tubes, or artificial hydration through an IV. You may want to document your specific wishes on these types of decisions.
Varying Wishes Based on the Medical Condition or Prognosis
In Texas, your advance directives contains provisions on the care you will receive in either a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. It is important to note that advance directive do not memorialize “do not resuscitate” orders. “Do not resuscitate” orders are are done at a hospital and with the advice of a physician. However, these directives may allow you to direct your medical decision-maker or physician to remove medical interventions or cease medical treatment when you are in a terminal condition or irreversible and persistent vegetative state, as certified by a physician.
Honoring Your Wishes
Will your chosen healthcare decision-maker honor your wishes? This is one of the most important questions you must ask both yourself and your chosen healthcare decision-maker, and you should have confidence in the answer you receive. While you may be steadfast in your beliefs and decisions about your end-of-life care, if you are unable to communicate this information, someone else will have to make these decisions on your behalf. If the person you have chosen does not agree with you, and absent properly executed documentation of your wishes, your chosen decision-maker will be allowed to make whatever decisions the decision-maker believes are in your best interest. Even if your wishes are properly documented, will your chosen person honor them if that person does not agree with your decisions, or will your decision-maker create an additional roadblock by challenging those decisions in a court of law?
If you suspect that the person you have chosen will not honor your wishes, you need to update your medical power of attorney immediately. You cannot predict when you will be in the hospital facing the end of your life, so you need to make sure that your documents are up to date and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.
Let Us Help You
With healthcare at the top of everyone’s mind right now, we want to reassure you that we are here to help. Choosing the right healthcare decision-maker and clearly communicating your wishes for your end-of-life care are two matters that should not be taken lightly. We can assist you in determining whom to name to this very important role and making sure that your wishes are clearly communicated in the appropriate documents. Give us a call today to schedule a virtual meeting.
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Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.