Prepare Legal Documents–Advance Directives that Put your Affairs in Order
Advance directives (living wills, powers of attorneys, and health care proxies) are legal documents that express an individual’s wishes with regard to medical decisions. They are intended to provide direction to a designated “agent” to speak on behalf of a person who is unable to speak for himself due to a physical or cognitive injury. Finding an Agent An agent under an advance directive has legal authority to make any decisions and take any actions for the individual who appointed them. It is important for an individual to appoint a trusted person to speak for him when he is unable to speak for himself with respect to medical and end-of-life decisions. Consultation with an attorney is critical to address legal nuances, personal preferences and state differences. When drafting advance directives, an individual’s wishes for health care and end-of-life decisions must be specifically addressed. Considering the significance of these decisions, it is important to appoint an agent who will follow the individual’s directions even if family members, medical professionals or friends disagree with them.
Things to Consider The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) advises consumers to consider five key items.
1. Who will serve as your Agent for Health Care or as the alternate?
2. Are there certain medical treatments or pain control measures you want or don’t want?
3. Do you wish to take or refuse any medication that may reduce or eliminate the ability to communicate with others?
4. Do you have any particular directions regarding specific health care facilities, religious preferences, disposition of your body, donation of bodily parts for transplant or research, etc.?
5. What directions will you provide related to end-of-life decisions specifically regarding:
- if you can no longer eat, drink or breathe on your own;
- if you cannot function independent of machines;
- if you are confined to bed with no mobility;
- if you have little cognitive ability.
For more information about elder law attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, visit www.naela.org.