A priority of every estate plan, regardless of your age, is making clear your healthcare wishes. This article from Forbes, “Be Sure You Have The Most Important Document In Every Estate Plan,”  makes clear you should get these healthcare documents done to protect your care and comfort for the rest of your life.

Healthcare Power of Attorney.  The Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA) gives one or more people—known as your attorney in fact—the authority to make medical decisions if you cannot. The attorney in fact talks with your doctors and nurses to understand your situation and options. They then make decisions based upon the desires you communicated to them through the Power of Attorney document itself and the discussions you have had with them, and based upon the input from your doctors.

Attorney in facts need to be available, so you’ll want to name people who are nearby. Having successor attorneys in fact named in your HPOA can provide flexibility in an emergency.

Declarations and Advance Healthcare Directives. What are commonly referred to as Living Wills, these documents were once simple statements, stating, “If I have a terminal condition and there’s no hope of recovery, don’t prolong my life by artificial means.”  As time has tested these simple documents and medical science has advanced, it has become clear that more direction is necessary which is why we now incorporate Advance Healthcare Directives into your plan. Through this directive, you can make clear in what scenarios you would wish to persist, and when you don’t want to linger. Not only will these directives allow you to live with dignity and on your terms, they will relieve your family of some very tough decisions.

HIPAA Authorization. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protects patient privacy but also makes it illegal for people you don’t authorize in writing to gain information about your medical status. You’ll need a document authorizing medical providers to discuss your situation with key people in your life. Once the document is executed, distribute copies to medical care providers and the people named in the document.

Do Not Resuscitate/Hospitalize. It’s common for older, frail patients to decide they don’t want to be resuscitated or hospitalized. For example, CPR is often declined because while it may bring a person back to life momentarily, their eventual passing may become violent rather than peaceful. The thinking behind DNR orders is this: at some point, hospitalization or treatment for every new ailment only briefly extends life without improving its quality and could reduce the person’s quality of life. Your estate planning attorney can not provide a DNR, please speak to your doctor about whether a DNR is right for you. Make sure a DNR/DNH is easily accessible to first responders, give medical providers a copy and consider having a bracelet or necklace with these letters.

Make sure to not only sign these documents, but also provide them to your family and healthcare providers so they know your wishes. Feel free to Book a Call with us, estate planning attorneys in St. Louis, Missouri, if you want to discuss your options further.

*Some of the document’s names may vary from state to state, Missouri’s are as stated above.

Reference: Forbes (Jan. 22, 2024) “Be Sure You Have The Most Important Document In Every Estate Plan”