While serious illness and death are certainly difficult topics of conversation, they are nevertheless extremely important. If you do not express your wishes regarding healthcare in situations where you cannot make such decisions yourself, choices about your care will often be left to family members. When a loved one becomes too ill to make decisions about their care, there are many questions that arise about medications, procedures, and other treatment options. That’s why it is extremely important for you to communicate your wishes to those close to you.
Not only does doing so help to ensure that your specific wishes for your healthcare are carried out, but it can also provide a great deal of relief for family members that may have otherwise had to make such decisions on their own. However, while talking about such things is important, you may also want to include options like a living will and healthcare proxy as part of a comprehensive estate plan to legally memorialize your wishes. The following information may help you decide if one or both options is right for you.
What is a living will?
A living will, sometimes called an advance directive, is simply a document that outlines your wishes for medical treatment and care if you are unable to make such decisions for yourself. Medical professionals must adhere to your wishes if you are unable to provide them with instructions related to your care. It is a vehicle through which you can express your wishes about your medical care and can be used to help a healthcare proxy understand your wishes.
What is a healthcare proxy?
Similar to a living will in that it will allow you to ensure that your wishes are carried out, a healthcare proxy is different because it allows you to nominate someone that you trust to make decisions about your healthcare. The person you select to make these decisions is known as your agent and can begin acting as such one a physician determines you are no longer able to make your own decisions. It’s virtually impossible for your living will to address every medical scenario that could arise, and an agent can make decisions regarding situations that may not be covered by your living will. That is not to say it is not important to have one, but a healthcare proxy will allow you to have the ability to apply your wishes to situations you may not have considered or those that could be legally different from conditions covered by your living will.
A healthcare proxy can help medical providers understand your wishes and your agent can adapt those wishes as your medical diagnosis changes. Healthcare providers are required by law to follow your wishes regarding care even if those wishes are expressed by the person you nominate as your agent. New York law allows you to designate a person to make all your medical decisions for you or just some of them, so you are free to design your healthcare proxy in the way that works best for you. A healthcare proxy can help add security to your estate planning as well as provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.