As the new year opens it is a good time to review all of your legal estate planning decisions and tweak any previous documents that you think need to be modified. This requires us to get back to the basics of estate planning . For those scenarios that deal with what happens to you in an emergency situation, you have an advanced medical directive, with some level of specificity but not too much. The term advanced medical directive is an umbrella term that encompasses several types of legally significant documents. One of them is a living will. Your living will tells the medical professionals who are treating you, what your wishes are in advance for any number of medical situations.
HEALTH CARE PROXY
Underneath the umbrella term of advanced medical directive, there is also the health care proxy. The health care proxy allows for you to appoint a trusted person to act as a decision maker for those scenarios that are not contemplated in your living will and if you are unable to make any medical decisions by yourself. Medical conditions change, different doctors have varying opinions as to the best course of treatment or even over the correct diagnosis. Having a health care proxy will have someone stand in for you to make the best decision under the circumstances. You can limit the authority that you give to the person or only permit the health care proxy go into effect after certain conditions or triggers occur.
DO NOT RESUSCITATE
Underneath the umbrella term of advanced medical directive is another document of legal significance, the do not resuscitate order. For some a do not resuscitate order may be fitting for religious or other reasons. There is nothing legally inappropriate for a person to include their do not resuscitate order in their living will or in a separate document. Whether it is separate, from the living will or both is of no legal consequence.
GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
The general power of attorney may or may not be a good fit for you depending on any number of factors. It does act as a safety net for any and all situations, such as to empower your health care proxy agent to negotiate with the health insurance company in the event they denied some service, such as medical transport or a physical rehabilitation. It may allow for the person to redirect certain public benefits into different accounts, depending on your needs. It may also allow for someone to care of the young children on an emergency basis if you are incapacitated and they have medical or other needs themselves that need to be taken care of. The general power of attorney helps to fill all cracks in the documents that you created, to allow for truly wrap around services for you in any emergency situation.
It is good practice to forward and review all of your documents that encompass your advanced medical directive (living will, health care proxy and if any do not resuscitate) with your primary care physician. Of course all doctors are busy professionals so make sure that you inform your doctor’s office receptionist that you are making an appointment to review your advance medical directive. It is always best to listen to the advice of any professional that you engage with, obviously including your primary care physician. That does not mean that you have to do everything that they suggest as it may not be fitting for you personally. But it should always be food for thought. Hospitals often ask about a do not resuscitate order when a person is admitted as well any advanced medical directives. The same holds true for your attorney. It is best to review all of your documents with your attorney and make any recommended changes that you are comfortable with.