Making Healthcare Decisions Before You’re Incapacitated

You may feel like you're always going to be of sound mind, but when it's time to determine what will happen with your estate, you'll need to also take into consideration the issue of incapacity. This is when you lose the ability to make medical decisions or take charge of your financial affairs. 

Controlling Future Healthcare Decisions

You may have specific requests regarding what will happen if you are hospitalized. You may wish to be resuscitated or not resuscitated. You may wish to enter hospice care if necessary. You may wish to be placed in a nursing home or you may wish to be placed under the care of a family member after you have become ill. Regardless of your decisions, it's important to clarify them quickly with help from a probate attorney. 

Establishing a Healthcare Directive

One option is a healthcare directive. This is considered a living will and occurs when your death may no longer be substantially delayed through further treatment. You are able to specify exactly which forms of treatment can be withheld. For example, you may not like to be on a respirator. You may wish to have no measures taken to prolong your life. In these circumstances, consult with a probate attorney regarding the options you have.

Establishing a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Another option is to use a healthcare power of attorney. With this decision, an agent is empowered to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. You may also use a healthcare directive and clarify that the agent must make decisions based on what is stated in the healthcare directive. 

Choosing the Right Agent

Occasionally, there are circumstances where you may not have clarified what you would like done in a particular situation. The agent is expected to make decisions based on what your preferences would logically be. It's important that you trust whomever is given this power since they have the right to review your medical information. The agent may hire and fire staff and they could even check you into a hospital.

Even if you trust your healthcare agent, it's important to discuss exactly what your intentions are so the agent may make the right decisions on your behalf. Even with the best intentions, an agent might make mistakes if you aren't clear. If you're not sure about who might be the right candidate, discuss this with your family and a probate attorney.