Giuliana V. Brockway
As Principal of Brockway Law in Santa Rosa, California, my practice includes estate planning, wills and trusts, trust and estate litigation, trust and estate administration and probate matters.
We all want our health care wishes to be factored into our medical treatment plan if we get sick. But what happens if we become ill or disabled to the point that we are unable to communicate those wishes? How do we prevent conflict by making sure our loved ones have a clear understanding of our medical care desires? An important component of an estate plan, the Advance Health Care Directive, is a power of attorney for health care decision making. It ensures that our treatment preferences are known and considered when circumstances prevent us from advocating for ourselves.
The principal is the person who creates the Advance Health Care Directive. The Advance Health Care Directive addresses different medical decisions such as resuscitation, the use of ventilators, tube-feeding, pain management. The document also provides HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) clearance for the chosen agent.
The Advance Health Care Directive also covers decisions regarding the principal’s body upon passing such as organ donation, autopsy authorization, celebration of life, burial or cremation wishes, religious last rite customs, or other preferences.
The principal designates an agent to handle health care decisions according to the principal’s preferences. Because the agent is the substitute decision-maker, the principal should choose someone who will be trusted to advocate for the principal with health care providers. The principal can also appoint an alternate agent if the original agent is unable to fulfill the role. Often, the appointed agent is a family member or trusted friend. The principal decides whether to empower the agent immediately or upon the principal’s incapacity.
Having an Advance Health Care Directive in place before a medical crisis occurs alleviates the stress of uncertainty for families.
Give Brockway Law a call if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.