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Preparing for incapacity with advance care directives

| May 12, 2021 | Estate Planning

Unexpected injuries, sudden illnesses, the advancement of medical conditions and various other factors may cause physical or mental incapacity for people. Consequently, even the healthiest of people may find themselves unable to make decisions for themselves or to express their thoughts and wishes. 

To help ensure they receive only the type of care and treatment they would agree to themselves and nothing they would not want, people may consider including advance care directives in their estate plans. 

Choosing a power of attorney for health care

According to the California Office of the Attorney General, as part of their advance care directives, people may name a power of attorney for health care. These specified agents may make health care decisions on behalf of the principals. Unless limited by the principals, the agents may refuse or agree to care, services or procedures for the diagnosis, treatment or maintenance of physical or mental conditions. They may also make decisions such as the following: 

  • Choosing or discharging medical providers 
  • Directing the administration or withholding of forms of health care 
  • Donating the agents’ organs or tissues 

Agents granted powers of attorney for health care may also choose whether to allow autopsies and make decisions regarding the handling of the principals’ remains in the event of their deaths. 

Expressing medical care preferences

People may include several provisions in their advance health care directive forms. In addition to naming a power of attorney for health care, people may also specify what they would and would not prefer with regards to their health care. Those creating advance care directives may choose to make these types of specifications, or they may decide to leave all choices up to their agents. According to MayoClinic.org, once they complete this essential estate planning document, people may hang on to the originals and give copies to their physicians and to their chosen health care agents to help ensure their preferences and wishes get carried out. 

People often struggle with thinking about their mortality, and therefore, may put off essential future planning. Therefore, those without estate plans, or whose estate plans only contain wills, may consider consulting with a legal representative to discuss their options.