A Health Care Directive is basically a durable Power of Attorney that allows you to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you become unable to do so for yourself. In some states the Directive instructs others about the care and treatment you wish to receive in very narrow, specific circumstances; for example, if, in the opinion of two physicians, you are either terminal or persistently unconscious. In those states, a separate Health Care Power of Attorney covers the rest of your health care choices and directions.
These documents offer several critical benefits:
- Help to avoid guardianship proceedings
- The person you name can continue to act on your behalf without court approval
- There are no regular court filings required
- Your healthcare matters are kept private
- You can choose your agent – not the court
Your Healthcare Directive and/or Health Care Power of Attorney should be included with your other estate planning documents, and you should also let your family know why you’ve made certain decisions. This ensures there are no surprises and can help prevent challenges when you’re no longer able to speak on your own behalf.
This often happens when family members disagree with your choices but by the time the challenge happens, you won’t be in a position to stand up for your rights.
To reduce the chances that your Healthcare Directive will be overturned, you should make sure that your document meets all state requirements and that it is supported by documentation that confirms your state of mind when the POA was signed.
In some cases, a doctor’s note verifying your mental clarity, for example, would help the judge feel comfortable that you knew what you were doing. Certainly, an estate planning attorney can help you ensure that all your estate planning documents are up-to-date and in compliance with the law.
Attorney at Law