Beware of Generic Health Care Proxy Forms

If you go to the hospital, you may be presented with a health care proxy form to sign on being admitted. While it might seem easy to sign a generic health care proxy form, having a document that is specifically tailored to your needs is very important.

A health care proxy form, also known as an advance medical directive, allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself. It should also include a Living Will that states what your wishes are for end of life care.

An advance medical directive takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning what that treatment should be. Appointing someone to serve as your agent helps ensure that your wishes will be carried out when a crisis occurs.

While an advance medical directive serves to appoint an agent to speak for you, you can also use it to give the agent guidance about your medical wishes. The following are some issues that can be addressed in an advance medical directive:

  • The name of the person authorized to act for you. It is good to appoint an alternate as well in case your primary agent is unable to assist you.
  • If you are terminally ill, in a coma, or have brain damage with no hope of recovery, you can explain the kind of treatment you do not want. For example, do you want to be kept alive by machines if you are in a persistent vegetative state?
  • Under what circumstances you want pain medication to be administered.
  • Whether you want to donate your organs.
  • Whether you want to be cremated or buried and where and how your remains should be disposed of.

Whatever choices you make, you should take time to consider your health care wishes before drafting an advance medical directive. For this reason, signing a generic hospital form is not a good idea, as such a form will not take your individual wishes into account. Instead, you should work with an estate planning attorney to have a proper advance medial directive prepared that reflects your personal wishes. In addition, if you already have an advance medical directive as a part of your estate plan, the generic form will revoke your more personal advance medical directive.

The Law Office of Angela N. Manz can help you create a document that specifically addresses your unique situation and feelings on medical decisions and end of life care. Email us for more information by clicking here.

Estate Planning

Why Plan Your Estate?
The process of estate planning means that you have a plan prepared for the management of your affairs during your life and for the disposition of your property upon your death or disability.  No one likes to dwell on the prospect of his or her own death or disability. The failure to plan may cause you or your family to incur unnecessary expenses, taxes, delays, and stress when you die or be become disabled. You run the risk that your loved ones may not receive what you would want them to receive after your death due to conflicts and disagreements, taxes, or administrative costs after death. Failure to plan may also cause you to run out of money during your lifetime if you are to need long-term care. This means that there may be no inheritance left for your spouse or children. This can all be avoided by proper estate planning.    A complete estate plan should consider the needs of your spouse, children, and other beneficiaries.
A comprehensive estate plan will address the following questions:
Whom do I want to make financial or health care decisions for me if I am incapacitated?
Whom do I want to manage my estate after my death?
Where do I want my property to go after my death?
What if my I want to leave property to a beneficiary who is disabled, has a substance abuse problem, or may become divorced?
What happens if my spouse or I become disabled?
How can I minimize or avoid probate taxes and fees after my death?
How can I leave an inheritance for my children?
All estate plans should include the two important estate planning instruments: a durable power of attorney and an advance medical directive.  The first is for managing your property during your life, in case you are ever unable to do so yourself.  The second is for the management of your health care decisions in case you are unable to do so yourself.  Also, an estate plan should include a will and possibly a revocable trust.  Many Americans are using revocable (or “living”) trusts to avoid probate and to manage their estates both during their lives and after they’re gone, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your family.
A complete estate plan will address your needs, as well as the needs of your spouse, children and other family members or business partners.  A good estate planning attorney will discuss your specific family situation with you to determine the best estate plan for your family, whether you need a will and/or a trust and to ensure that you are take care of in the event of a disability.
Don’t delay in getting a proper estate plan put into place. Not having the proper estate plan could have disastrous results for your family. Prior planning makes all the difference.