When a loved one becomes incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves, the family members may be unsure of what to do. As a result, it may be the responsibility of a family member to make decisions for them. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that an individual creates an advance healthcare directive. It is essential to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you through creating an advance healthcare directive. Our firm has over 30 years of experience helping clients plan for an uncertain future. Contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.
What is an advance healthcare directive?
An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that declares the choices an individual may wish to make regarding his or her own medical care in the event that they become incapacitated. Advance healthcare directives can include a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. A living will can dictate the care one wishes to receive or forego in the event of a medical emergency. A healthcare power of attorney designates an agent who can make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. These two documents may be created separately, as they serve two different purposes. However, in Pennsylvania, it is commonplace for a living will and a healthcare power of attorney to be combined into a single legal document.
A Living Will
Every individual has the right to decide their medical care, including the right to accept or forego medical treatment. The decision to accept or decline life-prolonging methods is a personal one. Through a living will, a person can declare what kind of treatment they would like to pursue if they become incapacitated, as well as which treatments should be avoided. A living will can instruct the appointed health care agent how to proceed in accordance with his or her wishes. If there is no such family member or trusted person to act on one’s behalf, the living will can provide instructions directly to treating physicians and/or caregivers.
The decision to create a living will is one that can put an individual at ease, knowing his or her wishes will be met if they become incapacitated. A living will can protect one’s rights, putting decisions and medical treatment preferences in a legal document. Doctors can use their medical expertise to ensure the individual’s wishes are met. While making decisions regarding a loved one’s health is never easy, a living will can help guide them through the process.
What is a durable health care power of attorney?
A durable health care power of attorney is a document that allows an individual to appoint a trusted person as their decision maker regarding healthcare, if they become incapacitated. An agent’s responsibility to the incapacitated person can begin immediately or when a treating doctor determines the individual can no longer make medical decisions on their own. The agent’s responsibilities can be detailed in the document, including the obligation to make healthcare decisions based on the individual’s wishes and best interests. One may also decide to dictate which health care decisions the agent should not make for them.
Pennsylvania Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment
Instructions for one’s care in the event they become incapacitated can be recorded in a living will. However, if a person is facing a life-threatening medical condition or wants to be prepared for an unexpected medical crisis, they may wish to have a Pennsylvania Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). A POLST includes directions about life-sustaining measures to be added to other lifesaving methods, like CPR. This familiarity makes it easier for the medical professionals treating an individual to do so per their wishes and instructions. A valid POLST should be signed by a health care provider, the individual, and/or their appointed health care agent. It should be noted that this form does not replace a living will or a health care power of attorney.
Contact an experienced Montgomery County estate planning attorney
The attorneys at Friedman Schuman are prepared to help their clients prepare for the future, however uncertain it may seem. Although discussions about end-of-life care can be quite difficult and emotional, knowing you have a team of legal representatives on your side can make the process seem less grueling. If you are interested in discussing your options for an advance healthcare directive, contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.