Documents Everyone Should Have
DOCUMENTS EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IN PLACE:
The simple fact of life is; we never know when we might die, get sick, be in an accident or have a life changing health related event. However, it is important to plan and communicate your wishes related to your health and death.
One of the most important documents everyone should have in place is a medical power of attorney. This document allows another person to make medical decisions on your behalf and allows you to get treatment when you’re unable to make decisions for yourself, and waives any rights protected under HIPPA. The medical power of attorney or advanced health care directive comes in to play if you become incapacitated from an illness and are no longer able to communicate. The individual you've nominated as your health care advocate is able to make decisions regarding your health, for you. The POA gives your designated agent certain powers; including the right to terminate life support, or an artificial feeding apparatus. Of course, the best way to ensure a loved one or close friend is not “stuck” making this difficult decision for you, is to execute a Kentucky Living Will , which empowers you to make your end-of-life decisions in advance, and relieves your health care advocate of bearing this burden.
When choosing a healthcare advocate/proxy there are some things to keep in mind:
1. You can't designate your doctor or their employees.
2. Husbands and wives can be designated for each another, and are often the best choice.
3. It is strongly suggested that you name only one person as your advocate, at a time, BUT also have an alternate just in care the primary cannot fulfill their duties.
4. Many states require the completed documents be signed by a witness or two witnesses and in front of a notary's presence to make the document valid.
5. A healthcare proxy or agent must be 18 years old or older but does not have to be a relative or someone with medical knowledge.
6. The best health care advocates are someone that can make important decisions during times of stress.
7. Your advocate should be assertive enough to ask questions about your care.
A second important document to have in place is a living will. A living will is a document that states your medical care wishes should you become incapacitated or seriously ill and unable to communicate your preferences.
A living will and a healthcare power of attorney work in tandem. In the living will, you describe your wishes for medical treatment in an end of life situation, and in the event you are unable to express them yourself. The living will states your wishes, but only goes into effect if you have been medically determined to be in a permanent vegetative state or terminally ill. However, your healthcare POA is effective even if you don't fall into this category. As an example, a person with dementia or Alzheimer's may be declared mentally incompetent, at which point, the health care advocate becomes your healthcare decision maker.
Having these two documents in place can help your family and loved ones better navigate through a difficult time and help you get the care you need in a timely manner.
There are companies that provide these documents online that are State specific however in most cases we recommend your hire an attorney, such as Emily C. Moore, who specializes in Estate Planning preparation.
Don't postpone getting these documents in place. Your life can change drastically at any moment. Be sure to discuss with your healthcare agent/proxy of choice before drawing up documents and make sure they understand your wishes and their responsibilities.
Below are links to documents online and a link to an attorney that can assist you with the documents and any legal questions pertaining to these forms.
Author: Sallie C Schneider, Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist C.P.R.E.S., Senior Real Estate Specialist SRES