Who Makes Your Medical Decisions Should Something Happen to You?
What happens should you become incapacitated before signing a power of attorney? Who is empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf? No one can predict when a serious illness or catastrophic accident might occur (think highway truck collision). When it does, you may need someone else to speak or make health care decisions for you.
If you plan now, you can increase the chances that the medical treatment you get will be the treatment you want. With proper estate planning, you can pre-select someone to be your “health care agent.” Your agent is the person you trust to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions yourself. These decisions should be based on your personal values and wishes.
No court authorization is required to grant your pre-selected “agent” permission to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated. Instead, your agent could take immediate action to protect you and your family. No cost and no delay.
Advanced estate planning today can give you peace of mind – knowing that if something incapacitating were to happen to you, your medical decisions would be honored. The Schaller Law Firm can give you peace of mind by drafting a “power of attorney for health care,” which provides for your pre-selected agent to make medical decisions for you. This is a key component of the Schaller Law Firm’s estate plan.
Choosing Your Health Care Agent:
By drafting your “power of attorney for health care,” you get to designate an agent who you trust to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated. Typically, a spouse would be the first choice followed by a responsible family member or friend. Your agent can act on your behalf in any way you could act. No court action. No court expense. You can even change agents at any time by amending or revoking the power of attorney. This is one of the most essential tasks any parent should do, and you should do it as soon as your child is born.
You can pick your spouse or a family member, but you do not have to. You should also pick a “successor agent” should your agent be unable to act. Your agent will have the responsibility to make medical treatment decisions, even if other people close to you might urge a different decision. The selection of your agent should be done carefully, as he or she will have ultimate decision-making authority for your treatment decisions once you are no longer able to voice your preferences. Choose a family member, friend, or other person who:
(i) is at least 18 years old;
(ii) knows you well;
(iii) you trust to do what is best for you and is willing to carry out your wishes, even if he or she may not agree with your wishes;
(iv) would be comfortable talking with and questioning your physicians and other health care providers;
(v) would not be too upset to carry out your wishes if you became very sick; and
(vi) can be there for you when you need it and is willing to accept this important role.
When making medical decisions for you, your agent will need to think about conversations you have had, your personality, and how you handled important health care issues in the past. Therefore, it is important to talk with your agent and your family about the following issues. What is most important to you in your life? How important is it to you to avoid pain and suffering? If you had to choose, is it more important to you to live as long as possible, or to avoid prolonged suffering or disability? Would you rather be at home or in a hospital for the last days or weeks of your life? Do you have religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs that you want your agent and others to consider? Do you wish to make a significant contribution to medical science after your death through organ or whole-body donation?
Understanding the Legal Process…
You select an “agent” who you believe is the best person to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated. You also select a “successor agent” to make the decisions should the agent be unwilling or unable to serve because of death, disability, etc.
The Schaller Law Firm drafts your power of attorney for health care for you to sign and have notarized. Two witnesses should watch you sign the document and sign the document themselves.
You keep your power of attorney for health care in a safe place, like a lockable metal box or drawer in your home, safe-deposit box, or other place you store valuable papers and jewelry. A copy should be given to your agent so the agent can take immediate action if necessary (especially if your incapacitation physically prevents you for accessing the original power of attorney). A copy can be retained by the Schaller Law Firm for safe keeping.
Celebrate! Sleep peacefully knowing you have provided legal protection for yourself and peace of mind for your family.
Complicated? You bet.
You should have an estate planning attorney on your side. Tap into Attorney Schaller’s 37+ years of legal experience. He wrote the book on client satisfaction.
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