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Advance Directives Give Peace of Mind

Start the new year and new decade off on a positive note by ensuring that you have three important legal documents in place: A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will. And if you’ve already created these advance directives, take the opportunity to review and update them as necessary.

Difficult as it can be to consider, there may come a time when we can’t make health care or financial decisions on our own because of illness, an accident, or simply due to the aging process itself. When we become incapacitated for any reason and can’t speak for ourselves, we will want to know that the person we trust can make decisions on our behalf and carry out our wishes. Advanced directives make that possible.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances: The Durable Power of Attorney for Finances gives the person you choose — attorney, family member or trusted individual — the ability to manage your finances when you can’t. This can be as simple as opening your mail and paying your bills or include other tasks like managing your retirement accounts and investments. The Durable Power of Attorney for Finances authorizes the person you’ve chosen to act in your stead to make financial decisions for you based on the details you’ve stipulated in the document.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: Just as with the Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, you choose another person — attorney, family member or trusted individual — to act on your behalf to make your health care decisions when you are unable to. He or she communicates with your doctors and other health care providers on your behalf so that they understand your wishes.

Living Will: A Living Will provides details about end-of-life health care and medical treatments you want — or don’t want — when you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions, such as whether or not you want artificial respiration, what kind of medications you want to be administered, whether you want food and drink withheld, and whether you want to spend your last days at home, a nursing home or in a hospital.

The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care appoints a person to make decisions on your behalf, while the Living Will outlines your specific wishes.

If you become incapacitated without a durable power of attorney, your family would have to petition the courts to become your guardian, a lengthy and expensive process. Leaving clear instructions ahead of any disabling event will give you peace of mind that your intentions are being carried out and help lift the burden for your family during a difficult period.

It’s important to note that these documents only take effect when you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions.

An attorney can advise you and draw up these documents. There are also online resources and forms available that can help you do it yourself. Also, your primary care practitioner (PCP) can provide information that can help you understand your options. Whichever approach you choose, make completing this trio of advanced directives a priority as we begin the new year.

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