It is common for those planning their estates to focus on their death. Creating a will, making burial arrangements and making plans for their personal property will be the biggest priorities when they plan. However, a good estate plan should also cover medical care in the event of an emergency. If a car crash leaves you unconscious or a diagnosis with dementia strips you of your legal right to make decisions on your own behalf, you will no longer have control over medical care. Professionals or someone who assumes a guardianship role will have authority over your medical choices. You can protect yourself now by drafting documents that address the possibility of medical incapacitation.
A Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment
Some people refer to a Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment as a living will. In recent years, the term advance directive has become more common.
Whatever you call it, it is a document that has legal authority when you experience medical incapacitation. Whether you are in a coma or have declining cognitive capabilities, an advance directive will give you control over the medical care that you receive.
You can outline preferences on pain management and life support, as well as resuscitation. You can talk about the specific facilities or care professionals that you would prefer to manage your treatment. You can even make a clear statement about a biological gift after you die. Your family members won’t have to guess what your medical wishes are when you carefully outline them in writing.
Medical power of attorney
Powers of attorney allow you to give someone else authority for certain actions in the event that you cannot speak on your own behalf. A medical power of attorney allows you to name someone as your agent the authorize them to handle your medical treatment. You may also need to add documents that authorize their access to your medical records.
Especially if you do not have a spouse, naming someone to handle medical decisions and to serve as your advocate when you cannot communicate on your own behalf can be an important step for your protection. Adding documents to your estate plan that protect you when you are alive and vulnerable can be as important as having a plan in place for when you die.