Using a Living Will and Health Care Proxy to Determine Medical Care

When you’re still healthy and clear-headed, it’s important to determine who will decide your financial and medical care if you are one day unable to do so. Your estate plan should include two documents that would take effect if you become unable to make these decisions. A health care proxy and a living will are both forms of health care directives specifically designed for this purpose.

What Is a Living Will?

A living will states whether you are to receive treatment if you become ill to the point of not being able to communicate those wishes. The decisions covered might include whether to have intravenous food or water, treatment with heart and lung machines, or other life-sustaining treatment. The living will does not prohibit the use of pain medication during this time.

What Is a Health Care Proxy?

You can also name a health care proxy, who is a person to whom you grant the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are not fit to do so. The document generally names one person, but it will identify successors in case the original proxy is not available or cannot perform the duties.

It is very important to discuss with your health care proxy your wishes and values before the unexpected arises. Some common situations to consider include:

  • Resuscitation
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Tube feeding
  • Palliative care (comfort care)
  • Organ donation

Having a health care proxy ensures that even if you are unable to speak for yourself, someone you trust and who knows your wishes will be able to speak for you.

An estate planning attorney at TuckerAllen can discuss with you health care needs to take into consideration and help you arrange health care directive documents. We can help ensure that your medical and financial documents clearly reflect your wishes. An attorney can determine the necessary components for comprehensive estate planning, which can include wills, trusts, or other documents.

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