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There are a number of objectives to estate planning, not the least of which are protecting your legacy and providing for your loved ones. At the same time, it is also important that you plan for type of medical treatment you should receive be in the event that an accident or illness leaves you mentally or physically incapacitated.   

What is a healthcare proxy?

A health care proxy is also referred to as a durable power of attorney for healthcare. This document allows you to designate someone you trust, 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 and coordinate your treatment with your doctor when you are not capable of making these decisions or speaking for yourself.

Without a health care proxy in place, your loved ones will need to ask the court to appoint someone to make these decisions. In short, creating  a healthcare proxy  will relieve them of this burden and ensure that you receive the type of care that you prefer.

What is a living will?

A living will is another type of advance medical directive which declares the type of treatment you wish to receive, or have withheld, if you become terminally ill and cannot communicate decisions about end of life treatment. In short, this document clarifies whether certain life saving measures, such as a ventilator or feeding tube should be used to prolong your life.

What other documents should I have?

In the event you become critically ill and do not wish to receive extraordinary life prolonging measures, you must also complete a do not resuscitate order or DNR. This document notifies doctors, nurses and emergency room personnel not to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to keep you alive in the event of a medical emergency.

Finally, it is also necessary to complete a “HIPAA Authorization” which is required under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This document ensures that other health care providers, organizations and your family members can access your medical records and history.


The Takeaway

Let’s face it: no one likes to think about the possibility of becoming incapacitated. However, an experienced estate planning attorney can prepare these essential advance medical directives and help you protect yourself and your loved ones.