Estate Planning 103: Health Care Planning

estate_planning_103In the previous two blogs we covered the financial side of Estate Planning. Now let’s look at the documents you need to establish a solid plan for health care management.

We can all remember the attention-grabbing court case over Terri Schiavo, a case which became synonymous with disputes over medical decisions for a person unable to communicate her wishes. Sadly, Mrs. Schiavo’s situation was completely avoidable. If she had established the appropriate health care documents prior to her illness, she would have remained in control of her own health care, and her family would have been spared years of anguish and massive legal costs. An Estate Plan includes two documents which direct your family and medical providers as to how you will (or will NOT) be treated in the unfortunate event that you, like Mrs. Schiavo, cannot make decisions for yourself.

With a Durable Health Care Power of you name an Agent to make medical decisions for you and instruct that Agent as to how you wish to be treated during your lifetime should you become unable to make health or personal decisions on your own. By establishing a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney, you appoint a single person to handle your health care decisions, leaving no question as to who has the right to manage your health care. You can spare your family from internal disputes over who gets to manage care and whether or not the correct decisions are being made.

The other document you need is an Advance Directive, also known as an Advance Care Plan or Living Will. This document tells your medical provider, Agent, and loved ones what treatments you choose or refuse, including life support and other extraordinary measures. Even if you have not declared an Agent through a Power of Attorney, the Advance Directive gives your loved ones and medical providers specific instructions about what kind of care to provide or not provide. But this document is rigid and only covers specific circumstances, which is why you also need to appoint an Agent through a Power of Attorney who has discretion to handle decisions that may not be covered by the Advance Directive.

You owe it to yourself and your family to make sure your health care plan is securely in place. Call Elder Law of East Tennessee at 865-951-2410 if you have questions about how to get started.