These are concepts no one likes to think about, and hardly come up during a summer picnic. The famous singer Prince proves that money isn’t always the reason for not having a Living Will or Health Care Directive drafted. Prince had plenty of money and yet he passed away without having a will drafted regarding his multimillion dollar estate. This leaves his family with years of headaches in Probate Court and high-priced attorney fees.
Each state has specific laws and guidelines regarding how a Living Will or Health Care Directive can be drafted. A Living Will is important and its contents are perhaps the hardest end-of-life decisions. Take advantage of still being healthy and decide now what types of care you want. Do not wait until you are unable to make those decisions later. Health Care Directives tell your medical providers your wishes especially if you become unable to speak for yourself.
Having health care instructions drafted by a legal professional is highly recommended. You do not need a lawyer to assist you, but you may want to consult with one. A Paralegal can draft Living Wills and save you money, but they cannot provide legal advice. Be careful of using online “fill-in the blank” forms. Most of those websites are not monitored by probate law firms and can even be monitored outside of the US. An experienced probate Paralegal will include the following:
- Health Care Representative or Power of Attorney (POA)
- Medical Treatment
- Do Not Resitate (DNR) Option
- Blood Transfusion
- Organ Donation
- Religious Option
A Living Will must state what medical treatment you want only if you are terminally ill or in a coma. Terminally ill means your ‘medical problem can’t be cured or reversed’, and without treatment, your doctor expects you to die. A permanent coma means ‘at least two doctors say you are unconscious and are not expected to wake up’.
Living Wills let you decide if you want:
- CPR if you stop breathing,
- food or water through a tube,
- a ventilaor or breathing machine, or
- other treatment per your doctors orders to keep you alive.
You will always receive pain medication (unless you state otherwise) and comfort care.
Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR)
A DNR is an order written by your doctor—in consultation with you—about withholding certain medical treatment. This would include not doing CPR when you stop breathing.
Health Care Representatives
Your Health Care Representative (Power of Attorney) is the person you choose to make health care decisions for you when you can’t speak for yourself. Choose someone you trust: someone who knows your wishes and is willing to follow them. That person should also be able to communicate your wishes about your care and your expected outcome to your doctors. Name a second person who can be your representative in case the first person isn’t available.
If you signed a Living Will, your representative will make sure your end-of-life decisions are followed. If you did not sign a living will and you cannot express your desires to your physician, then your representative will make end-of-life decisions for you.
If you cannot speak for yourself, your health care representative can make your health care decisions according to your living will.
A conservator is someone who make will sure you are properly cared for if a judge finds that you are not able to make decisions about your care. A conservator can only be appointed by the Probate Court, but you can name the person you would want to be your conservator. You can name your POA as your conservator.
You can decide if you want to donate any of your organs.
No one—not your doctor, a nursing home, or a hospital—can make you write or share health care instructions, but they must ask if you have them. They cannot deny you care if you don’t have health care instructions.
Preparing Your Health Care Instructions
To make your health care instructions legal, you must
- be at least 18 years old,
- be able to understand the impact of your health care decisions, and
- sign and date your health care instructions in front of two witnesses.
The Power of Attorney cannot be a witness.
Give copies of your signed health care instructions to your
- family and health care representative, and
- doctors and others who might be taking care of you if you can’t take care of yourself.
Can I Change My Living Will Instructions?
You can change any part of your health care instructions at any time.
- To change your living will, you only have to say, show, or write that you have changed your mind.
- You must change your health care representative or your organ donation wishes in writing and sign it in front of two witnesses. If you change your health care instructions, give a copy to your health care representative(s) and anyone else who might need it.
“VAP Services is a full service executive paralegal network, providing legal document preparation including Living Wills and Power of Attorney drafting.”
Phone : 1-203-519-0599
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