The holiday season is a good time to have a discussion with your loved ones about your durable powers of attorney for healthcare and living will. While most people would rather not dwell on the topic, addressing the matter when you are healthy is the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed if you become incapable of directing your own medical care. If you don’t plan for the scenario, your healthcare may end up in the hands of doctors, distant family members, or even judges who know nothing about your healthcare preferences.
The healthcare documents that you’ll need are a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
Unlike a last will and testament, which outlines what happens to your assets after your death, a living will documents your preferences for your medical care. The living will only goes into affect in the event that you become incapacitated and unable (physically or mentally) to dictate your own care. The living will specifies your wishes in regard to:
- Feeding and hydration in a coma
- Resuscitation if your heart stops
- The use of a respirator if you can no longer breathe independently
- Organ and tissue donation after death
Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding the living will, so be sure that you understand New Jersey State specifics before signing. The will is signed in the presence of witnesses, and the original document must be given to your doctor for the will to go into effect. Therefore, someone you trust should have access to the original.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
The durable POA for healthcare appoints someone you trust to be your healthcare agent to represent your living will in the event that you cannot advocate your own healthcare. Your healthcare POA can be a spouse, adult child, sibling, or anyone else who will be able to represent your wishes. It’s a good idea to appoint an alternate POA in the event that the first person you chose is unable or unwilling to represent you.
Your financial POA has the power to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapable of doing so.
Your POA and Healthcare POA can be the same person, but if you designate two different people, be sure they see eye-to-eye in regard to your healthcare preferences. For example, if your Healthcare POA maintains that you would want 24 hour medical care but the person in charge of your finances refuses to pay for it, they will have to go to court to come to a decision.
What Happens if My Preferences Change?
As long as you are capable, a living will and POA can be changed or revoked at any time. If you want to adjust your healthcare preferences or switch your designated POA, be sure to inform your doctor and POA of your intentions.
Why You Should Talk About Living Will and POA This Week
At Park Crescent, we take this issue very seriously. That’s why we urge you to start the discussion, however unpleasant, this week. The holidays are at time when families get together, so use the time to talk about the future, and how you’d like the end of your life to look.
Wishing you and your families a very happy holidays!