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Health Care Decision-Making and Your Estate Plan

Among its many other effects, for many people, the COVID-19 crisis has brought the importance of estate planning into sharp focus. It is now clear that unexpected – and unprecedented – events can happen during our lifetime; and, in case they do, we need to be prepared.

The health risks associated with COVID-19 are very real, but they are not the only health risks we face on a day-to-day basis. From car accidents to cancer, all types of unexpected contingencies can change our lives in the blink of an eye. If you are suddenly incapacitated due to events beyond your control, do you know who will make health care decisions on your behalf?

Health Care Planning: Making Sure You Know Who is In Control

When it comes to health care planning, there are two primary estate planning tools that are used to maintain control over your care in the event that you become incapacitated. These are: (i) a medical power of attorney, and (ii) an advance directive.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney is an estate planning tool that is used to give someone else the authority to make decisions about your medical treatment on your behalf. It is also commonly known as a health care directive or living will. When preparing a medical power of attorney, you choose the specific person who you want to make decisions on your behalf, and you decide how much discretion you want him or her to have.

When you sign a medical power of attorney, the document is not effective immediately. Unless and until you become incapacitated, you still retain full control over your medical care. But, if you become incapacitated as the result of an illness or injury, then your chosen representative will have the authority to step in and direct your medical care consistent with the guidance you have provided.

What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a separate legal document from a medical power of attorney that serves a much more specific purpose. While a medical power of attorney gives someone else the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, an advance directive states your specific instructions regarding the provision of life support in the event of incapacity. If you have an advance directive and your condition is such that you require artificially life-sustaining care, your doctors will follow your advance directive directly without looking to a representative for guidance.

Medical powers of attorney and advance directives are both important components of a comprehensive estate plan. They provide certainty for you and your family, and they protect your loved ones from being placed in the uncomfortable decision of needing to make decisions without knowing what you would have wanted.

Speak with a McKinney Estate Planning Attorney at The Nordhaus Firm

Do you have questions about health care planning? If so, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our McKinney, TX estate planning attorneys. To request an appointment at your convenience, please call 214-726-1450 or inquire online today.