Coming to Terms
It isn’t a common discussion topic around the dinner table, but the importance of ensuring your needs and wants in the event of a tragic event is vital. Time and time again I have witnessed families deal with unimaginable situations, and the last thing they need at the time is to make life or death decisions. Loved ones must know the healthcare wishes of their loved ones. Wishes should be spelled out clearly and documented in a living with along with assigning a healthcare power of attorney.
I think it is incredibly important that we all recognize, prepare and provide adequate instructions in the event of an accident or injury. While not one of my areas of practice, wills and healthcare power of attorney preparation is too important topic not to share. I having worked with so many clients that have their lives turned upside down in the blink of an eye – be prepared!
What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
In the event of an injury that leaves an individual unable to make medical decisions about his/her well being, a designated healthcare power of attorney acts as that person’s agent to make medical related decisions and have access to all healthcare related information. It is important to note that a healthcare power of attorney cannot override the directives in a living will.
Having a healthcare power of attorney in place can streamline treatment and medical decisions, allowing your loved ones to provide information and instructions that are in line with the guidelines you have set forth.
What is a Living Will?
A living will works in combination with healthcare power of attorney directives. A living will specifies whether or not to use life sustaining efforts by means of artificial equipment. A living will is only put into action if you are no longer able to communicate, and it will take precedence over a healthcare power of attorney directive. Having both in place is important, and if your wishes change, be sure your living will and power of attorney directives are updated accordingly.
What Else Should I Know?
This is a difficult subject and navigating it can be equally confusing. Directions for CPR, financial power of attorney, property and asset allocation and many other aspects are governed by different legal documents and procedures. While I truly believe we should live each day to its fullest, I have a unique insight into the lives of those who have been effected by a life-changing event; blind sided and left to sort through the pieces. Take control, plan ahead and ensure that your wishes are clearly and properly documented.
The Ohio State Bar Association has worked with several agencies, including the Ohio Hospital Association, The MidWest Care Alliance and the Ohio State Medical Association to ease the confusion and provide a way to obtain and complete your living will and power of attorney healthcare forms. Visit www.midwestcarealliance.org to get started. For asset and financial power of attorney documents, as well as additional estate planning best practices, consult your estate attorney.