Here is another in our "Greatest Hits" series of blogs. This one was first published in June of 2010.
Being In Control
Perhaps the most important goal of any estate plan is to allow the client tomaintain control. Most of our clients here at Idaho Estate Planning are veryintent on â€œbeing in controlâ€ as long as possible. They want to make their owndecisions about whether to go into a â€œfacilityâ€ or stay in their house.(Usually the choice is to stay at home as long as possible.) However, theability to be in control and stay at home is challenged constantly.
Some of the challenges tobeing in control consist of those disabilities we all fear: Alzheimerâ€™sdisease, dementia, other mental challenges and numerous physical disabilities.The biggest question becomes, â€œHow do I maintain control if I suffer one of thesedisabilities?â€ While these situations are varied (and extremely difficult),there are some basics that will allow you to exercise control, that is, allowyou to voice your opinion is such a situation.
Durable Power of Attorney forHealth Care
First and foremost, you need to execute a Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare. This is a legal document that allows you to personally choose who willmake decisions or give instructions if you are not able to, whether from mentalor physical disability. This is an extremely important document to have in yourestate plan. It is, therefore, extremely important to carefully consider whoyou want giving instructions to health care providers on your behalf.Typically, this is a spouse.
But, if the spouse is unable tofulfill this responsibility, who will take over? This requires great thoughtand consideration. Who has the skill set to take on this responsibility? Whounderstands what you want to have happen? These are not easy decisions andshould not be undertaken lightly.
A Living Will is a form created by statute that allows you to express apreference if it is determined by two doctors that you are in a terminal stateand being kept alive by artificial life support measures. The Living Will alsoapplies if you are determined to be in a persistent vegetative state (some callthis being â€œbrain deadâ€). The Living Will allows you three basic choices: 1) toforego all life preserving efforts being applied whether artificial or natural;2) to forego any life preserving efforts applied; or 3) only natural effortsapplied including food or water or both. In reality, while these situations dooccur, they are rare.
The Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment or â€œPOSTâ€ is a more detailed legaldocument that allows you be very specific in how treatment, whether artificialor natural is applied to you. You can choose to forego intravenous feeding orthe use of a feeding tube. You can choose to forego intubation to keep youbreathing. You can choose to forego â€œaggressive methodsâ€ to preserve your life.Each of these is an option that you choose.
If your Living Will or POST is needed, it is your Health Care Agent asestablished in your Power of Attorney for Health Care who gives theinstructions to the health care professionals. These documents, then, worktogether to help you maintain control of your own situation. One more documentthat makes all the others work better is the HIPAA release. This is aninformational release in which you give the health care professionalspermission to provide your health information to your Health Care Agent orother family members. In essence, the Power of Attorney allows your Health CareAgent to talk to the doctor. The HIPAA release allows your doctor to talk toyour Health Care Agent.
These, then, are the minimumdocuments you need to make sure your wishes for health and medical care and endof life decisions are honored. Now is the time to address these concerns andplan for the most difficult of times. Once it starts raining (or hailing as itdid yesterday), itâ€™s a little late to start fixing the roof. Once you areincapacitated, itâ€™s too late to do this planning.
At Idaho Estate Planning,we understand the challenges faced by elder Americans. We have the experienceand expertise to help you maintain your options and protect yourself as well asyour loved ones now and into the future. Remember, goodplanning is no accident.