If you become incapacitated, and can no longer manage your own affairs, you will need someone to help you. Two primary areas where this is relevant is your financial affairs and your healthcare affairs. There is a separate document for each.
A durable power of attorney is the document where you will name an agent to manage your financial affairs.
An advance healthcare directive is where you name an agent to manage your healthcare decisions after you are incapacitated.
What does an advance healthcare directive consist of?
Your advance healthcare directive does two things:
- Names an agent to act if you become incapacitated
- Provides specific instructions regarding your healthcare wishes for your agent to follow
Keep in mind that it is revocable, so you can still change it down the road, as long as you have not lost your capacity to execute legal documents.
Your agent's powers
In the beginning of the document, you will name your agent (and alternate agents in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act). It will grant them general authority to make healthcare decisions for you, unless you limit that power in some way. Also, your document will say when the power becomes effective (immediately, or only upon your incapacity “springing”). If the document becomes effective on your incapacity, it will describe the procedure for doctor certification of your condition.
Instructions for your healthcare
The other thing the document will do is lay out instructions/guidelines for your agent to follow. Some situations that might be address are:
- Whether to prolong your life if you have an irreversible condition or you are in a vegetative state
- Guidelines for the treatment of pain (sometimes pain medicine can hasten one's death)
- Whether you want your organs donated
- If you have specific religious requirements
You can put as much or as little detail as you want in the instructions for your agent. The important thing is to pick someone you trust and can rely on to carry out your wishes if/when the time comes.
Helix Law Firm can help with advance healthcare directives
If you want to plan for your incapacity, it is essential that you have a valid advance healthcare directive in place. We can help determine your wishes and draft one accordingly, whether as part of an estate plan package, or as a stand-alone document.
If you're interested in learning more, please call us at (619) 567-4447 to schedule a free consultation.