Healthcare Power of Attorney
A Healthcare Power of Attorney (also known as an Advance Medical Directive or a Living Will) allows your trusted friend or family member to make medical treatment decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your wishes to doctors.
The Health Care Power of Attorney section names an agent to authorize treatment, receive health care information, and receive medical information. This is a very extensive section covering aging in place, in-home treatment, authorizing all types of medical treatment and expenses, executing documents such as DNRs. Many of our clients will tell us they have a DNR. However, it is not possible to have a DNR at every place it might be needed which is why it is necessary to authorize your agent to sign one on your behalf. In addition, the document has a living will where you state what your wishes are regarding life support. Finally, the document has a full and complete HIPPA waiver.
Other necessary parts of the document are organ donation preferences. We will it is important to put it in the document. If your preference is no then put it in the document so your family is not bothered. In addition, we put your funeral and burial wishes in the document.
We encourage our clients to make as many decisions as they are comfortable with. For example, Jane is sure she does not want to be put on life support if she is brain dead so we put that in the document. Also, if Jane wants to be buried we put that in the document as well. Without one, you must have a guardian or ‘conservator’ of your person appointed by the court before decisions can be made on your behalf.
This is a critic document. When your spouse is dying the hospital will want this document to authorize you to make important decisions when it comes to life support wishes.
Healthcare Power of Attorney For Students
As a parent do you realize that once your child is an 18-year-old, you no longer have any right to make health care decisions for him or her. You no longer have the right to receive his/her health care information. What if your child is hospitalized? You could be left standing outside not knowing what is going on if your child is not capable of talking. This applies to your college-age child. Your son/daughter can go away to school get injured and you have no right to know or make decisions for him or her.
Healthcare Power of Attorney For People With Mental Illness
There is also a special Health Care Power of Attorney for people suffering from mental illness. It allows the agent to put him/her in the hospital against his/her will. The hospitalization lasts for 10 days. It allows the mental health crisis to pass. This document is so important. Regular Health Care Power of Attorney specifically forbids the agent from committing someone. Under the regular law, you can ask for a 72-hour hold if the person is going to harm himself or others. However, sometimes that is not enough time for the medication to help someone. The 72-hour hold is also subject to the Magistrates agreement. If the Magistrate does not believe the person is a danger to himself/herself or others, he can let him out. In general, the system is very frustrating to loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness. The best solution is to have the person sign the special Health Care Power of Attorney.
A Health Care Power of Attorney not only saves precious decision-making time, but it also ensures that the individual you trust the most has the power to make these most important decisions for you if you are unable to make the decisions on your own. If you do not have a Health Care Power of Attorney then your loved one is forced to get a guardianship in order to make health care decisions, authorize treatment, and execute health care-related documents. In order to get a guardianship, a court proceeding is brought. Once the guardianship is granted by the judge the guardian has to file reports on you with the state until after your death. This process is expensive and time-consuming.
Advanced Directives & Living Wills
Advanced Medical Directives
Advance medical directive allows an individual to make decisions regarding their medical care prior to becoming ill. Individuals may choose aggressive care, comfort care or choose to opt out of care altogether. Therefore, if you are unable to consent to treatment because of an incapacity to understand the risks, purposes, alternative treatments or benefits of treatment, your advance medical directive will advise doctors of what treatment, if any, you want to receive.
Benefits of An Advance Medical Directive
The advance medical directive will determine medical care in the event you are incapable of making the decision yourself. It may include a “do not resuscitate” order, or a DNR. It may contain provisions for select aggressive treatments or no treatment at all. You may choose to refuse a feeding tube in the event you become terminally ill. The advanced medical directive may also contain a provision appointing someone else to make your medical decisions for you. You may also dictate how, or if, you receive life-sustaining treatment in the case of severe disease or mental defect. Advance medical directives are a way to provide consent for treatment or refusal for treatment when you cannot speak for yourself.
If you do not have an advanced medical directive, varying states may differentiate on who they appoint to make your medical decisions. Generally, a surviving spouse can make a decision in your place. If there is no surviving spouse, your children can make decisions for you. Keep in mind though, if the time comes, these may not necessarily be the people you want to make the decisions for you.
When Advanced Medical Directives are Utilized
The advance medical directive is only utilized when you are incapable of making medical decisions for yourself. Until the instance arises (if it ever should) where you are unable to effectively communicate your wishes to your doctors, you are the only person who can provide consent or refusal for treatment. As long as you are conscious and presently aware, your doctors will explain to you the benefits, alternatives, and risks of the proposed treatment. You then give your consent or refusal for the treatment; this is called informed consent or informed refusal. You retain your right to make an informed consent or informed refusal decision as long as you are able to do so.
Lifting The Decision Burden
An additional benefit to having an advance medical directive is lifting the burden from your loved ones. If you already have in writing what treatments you want or do not want, your loved ones do not have to make those heart-wrenching decisions for you. When you remove the burden from loved ones, they can spend more time focusing on the patient.
The benefits of an advance medical directive are clearly advantageous. It gives loved ones and medical providers clear instructions on what treatment you want and what treatment you do not want. However, your medical directive does not take away your right to consent or refuse treatment while you remain able to do so.
This is another type of advance medical directive that specifies the treatment that should be provided to or withheld from a person who becomes terminally ill or incapacitated and cannot communicate his or her decisions about end-of-life care.
Financial Power of Attorney
Financial Power of Attorney (also called a Durable Power of Attorney) gives an agent the power to take care of your finances if you become incapacitated or you are unavailable to do it. When you are incapacitated for either a short or a long period of time you will need someone to pay your bills, do your banking, make investment decisions, and deal with taxes. In other words, handle your financial matters. This person is called your Agent.
A common example is: Dad gets dementia and can no longer remember to pay his bills. This document will allow one of his children to take over paying his bills, filing his tax return, doing his banking, and even managing his money.
Another example is between spouses. Perhaps one spouse has a job that requires a lot of travel. The couple is selling their home. Using a Power of Attorney, the wife can sign her husband’s name.
Power of Attorney can be effective immediately or upon his becoming incapacitated. The choice depends on the age of the client and of course personal circumstances. Does the client travel a lot for work? Is the client comfortable giving someone that power immediately?
Financial Powers of Attorney are among the most abused documents. There are countless stories of Agents to take money for their own use. Son takes mom’s money when she is in the hospital and buys himself a new house. Mom makes a miraculous recovery and then has to get her money back.
Types of Power of Attorney
Limited Power of Attorney is usually for a specific purpose and time period. This document can be executed to accomplish a single goal like sell a house. It would only have the specific power needed to accomplish the goal. A Limited Power of Attorney could also be used for a specified power of time. We have many clients who are stationed overseas during that period it makes sense to give someone a Limited Power of Attorney for the period they will be gone to deal with assets left in the US.
This is a very important document. Sometimes people have a very old version of the document or the estate plan they did 30 years ago did not include a Power of Attorney. If you or your loved one becomes incapacitated and you do not have this document the only way to gain control over the incapacitated person’s finances is to get a conservatorship through the court. This is an expensive process and after it is over there is court oversight over the incapacitated person’s finances. Making sure you have an up to date Financial Power of Attorney can avoid all of that.
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