The pandemic has created awareness that being suddenly incapacitated by an illness or injury is no longer a hypothetical. The last year has reminded us that health is a fragile gift, regardless of age or any medical conditions. Along with this awareness comes an understanding that having control over our medical decisions is not assured unless we have a well-considered health care decision-making plan created by an estate planning attorney while we are healthy.
In the event of incapacity, you will not have the opportunity to convey your wishes or to ensure they will be carried out if you don’t plan ahead. This also may lead to family conflict over what type of care you receive, and they could even go to court over it!
Here in Iowa, we help protect our client’s healthcare wishes through a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. We recommend going to an estate planning attorney because do-it-yourself documents may lead to more problems than they solve.
2 Tools to Ensure Your Healthcare Wishes are Followed
1. Living Will. This document is used when you are in an end-stage medical condition or permanently unconscious. It provides clear and written instructions as to the type of treatments you do or do not want to receive, or the treatment you always want to receive in case of incapacity.
2. Health Care Power of Attorney. The health care power of attorney is broader than a living will. It covers health care decisions in all situations, when you are not able to communicate your wishes. You may appoint one or more agents to make health care decisions, which they will base on their personal knowledge of what your decisions would be if you were able to speak. Just realize that if two people are named and they do not agree on the interpretation of your decision, you may have created a problem for yourself and your family. Discuss this with your estate planning attorney.
The more detailed your documents, the better prepared your loved ones will be when decisions need to be made. Share your choices about specific treatments. For instance, would you want to be taken off a ventilator, if you were in a coma with limited brain function and with no hope of recovery? What if there was a slim chance of recovery? The decisions are not easy. Neither is considering such life or death matters.
Regardless of the emotional discomfort, planning for healthcare decisions can provide peace of mind for yourself and loved ones.
Reference: Kiplinger (April 29, 2021) “Now Is the Time to Protect Your Health Care Decision Making Rights”