A vital part of any estate plan created in Kansas or Oklahoma is the medical directive. Also known as advance directives, health care proxies, and by similar terminology, medical directives provide vital protections for you and your loved ones that other estate planning tools do not. Including the right directives in your plan and making sure that they accurately represent your wishes is one of the best steps to take to prepare for possible incapacitation.
Medical Directives: Made in Advance
You might hear your attorney refer to medical directives as ‘advance’ directives. This terminology can sometimes be confusing for lay people because they sometimes confuse the term ‘advance’ for ‘advanced.’ An ‘advanced’ directive sounds like something that’s complicated and hard to make, but that’s not an accurate representation of these tools.
Medical directives are sometimes called ‘advance’ directives because you make them in advance of needing them. These tools give ability to make medical choices that will apply in the event you are unable to express or make choices later on. There is nothing particularly difficult or ‘advanced’ about them.
Medical Directives: Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care
One of the two main medical directives people create as a part of an estate plan is the durable power of attorney for health care, sometimes known as a health care power of attorney, health care proxy, or by similar names. A durable power of attorney for health care gives you the ability to grant another person the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
So, for example, let’s say your elderly father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. If he can no longer make choices on his own because of the effects of the disease, who will make decisions for him? If your father took the time to create durable power of attorney for health care and named you as his health care agent, you are legally capable of making those decisions on his behalf.
Medical Directives: Living Wills
What if you’re uncomfortable with the idea that someone might make your medical choices for you? Can you make your own choices now that will apply if and when you become incapacitated?
Yes, by making a living will. A living will is a document in which you can express your medical choices. Should you lose your ability to communicate or make choices, your living will acts as your voice.
It’s important to note that living wills and health care powers of attorney can, and should, work together. Living wills are typically limited to address “end of life” issues. If you appoint a health care agent, that agent has to follow the wishes you express in your living will, but can also make other decisions concerning your care that your living will doesn’t specifically address.