No one wants to think about their own death or dying, but it's a reality. An accident can happen any day. You could be diagnosed with a terminal illness. If you do not have a plan established on end-of-life care or medical treatment preferences for when you are incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself, decisions will have to be made by family members. That can be a source of in-fighting and guilt. You don't want that.
At the Law Office of Thomas Denny, our elder law attorney in Buffalo NY can go over these sensitive matters with you and help you devise a healthcare directive that mirrors your values and beliefs. Contact us at 716-800-1234 or online schedule a free initial consultation to learn more. In the meantime, below is a guide to healthcare directives that address common issues and questions that many of our clients have before coming to see us.
What Can Healthcare Directives Do?
A healthcare directive, also known as an advance directive, is a set of medical instructions for what to do when someone is unable to make important medical decisions on their own. Each state has its own respective forms related to healthcare directives, though many common components are present throughout each state.
The underlying function of an advance directive is to make a patient's healthcare wishes known before the medical issues arise. Some examples of healthcare directives include:
- Living wills
- Do-not-resuscitate orders
- Do-not-intubate instructions
- Organ donor registration
- Designation of a healthcare proxy, or someone else to make medical decisions on the patient's behalf
- Designation of a medical power of attorney
In sum, healthcare directives do a lot for such a small part of an estate plan–they save your family the emotional pain of making healthcare decisions for you when you no longer can, and they secure your medical treatment preferences so that care you do not want is not provided while care you want is provided.
Creating a Healthcare Directive in New York State
Different states have very different rules regarding how healthcare directives are created and what goes in them. Some states require healthcare directives to be fairly particular and specific while others allow them to be quite vague and wide-reaching––though regardless of where you are, the more specific you are, the less confusion there will be. You can talk to your doctor about what you might want to go into the healthcare directive, and you can speak to an attorney to make sure you complete the right forms.
In any event, upon creating a healthcare directive, you want to :
- Keep the originals in a safe, accessible place.
- Provide a copy to your doctor, health care agent, attorney, and/or loved ones.
- Be sure to log who has a copy of the directive so in case one is lost, you have a backup.
- Talk to family members about the decisions you made in the advance directive. It's good to establish boundaries and an understanding of your preferences.
- Keep with you (in your purse or wallet) and a condensed version of the directive with a note where a copy may be found––this is important for unexpected emergencies.
Changing Advance Directives
Every few years, you should review your advance directives and make changes accordingly. This is true for all your estate plan documents. There are two events that particularly prompt a need for an update:
- A new diagnosis, a terminal illness or disease that will alter your way of life; and
- Marriage or divorce, i.e., you may want to change who you appoint as your healthcare proxy or agent.
The Benefits of Having a Healthcare Directive
Creating a healthcare directive is not something that people like to think about––most people do not want to plan for serious medical problems. However, even young and healthy people stand to benefit from having a healthcare directive in place.
Like an insurance policy, a healthcare directive helps them in a time of need, foreseeable or not. It also drastically reduces confusion at a moment when quick decisions need to be made. It can also remove the uncertainty and guilt that other people can feel when they have to make important decisions on someone else's behalf.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney Today
Planning for your future health care is an important part of your estate plan. It is not something to be avoided. Peace comes with being prepared. At the Law Office of Thomas Denny, our estate planning lawyer will walk you through the steps of a healthcare directive and all other components of an estate plan that suit your needs and wants. Contact us either by using the online form or calling us directly at 716-800-1234 to schedule a free initial consultation today.