Power of attorney and living wills

Health Care Powers of Attorney/Health Care Directive

A health care power of attorney is commonly referred to as a living will or a medical directive. As part of our firm’s estate planning package, a living will is prepared for our clients. The purpose of the living will is to empower an agent to make medical decisions for an individual should the need arise when the individual can no longer make such decisions or is in a life-ending condition from which no recovery is expected. This document is a critical part of comprehensive estate planning and is vital in expressing the wishes of the individual.

Occasionally, persons who have not previously prepared a living will find themselves in dire medical straits. When necessary, our firm is equipped to send an attorney and an notary to the hospital bed of such individuals thereby putting into place a living will before that individual loses the capacity to make his/her medical decisions.

When a person is no longer able to make his/her medical decisions about treatment, the agent designated in the living will, will be responsible for doing so. Our estate planning attorneys can provide you with guidance and the proper language to include specific details about what type of care and treatment you would like to receive. Also, our estate planning attorneys can put into the living will treatments that you feel strongly against or treatments that you believe to be unethical or improper for religious reasons. Therefore, it is essential that these details be included in your living will as guidance for your agent. You may not know what details you should be thinking about. Therefore, it is essential that you speak to experienced attorneys such as our estate planning attorneys to bring these issues to your attention.

Your living will can include specific content where you may wish to restrict life prolonging procedures if you are in an irreversible vegetative state or comma. The key reason for provisions of this type is to preserve the assets of your estate for your survivors or the next generation without needlessly squandering these assets on medical care that will have beneficial effect.

Durable Power of Attorney
The drafting of a Durable Power of Attorney gives permission to an agent appointed by the principal to assume all duties on behalf of the principal. It is a powerful document, and by conveying the powers, the principal should be cautioned that the agent may do anything that the principal himself may do. There are many indications for the creation of a Durable General Power of Attorney, and it is wise to seek the advice of a legal professional to expand upon the use of this document and as to the proper way of creating such a document that will be valid and will also comply with the up-to-date statutes which are in effect.

Another type of power of attorney is a power of attorney for a specific purpose. Typically, this type of power of attorney is used for a temporary purpose and, unlike a durable power of attorney, tends to have a specific expiration date. Examples include a specific power of attorney to sell property, businesses, and to sign contracts when the principal party is either away on vacation, or temporarily incapacitated due to injury or illness.

In the event that the agent you appoint is himself/herself unavailable or incapacitated, our estate planning attorneys will show you how you can appoint a co-agent or an alternate agent. This is important because, should you fail to sign a power of attorney and thus fail to appoint an agent to handle your affairs, a member of your family would have to endure the costly and lengthy process to petition a court to be appointed as the guardian of your person and your estate so that your affairs may be handled in a proper and legally acceptable manner. Therefore, it is vital that you have a power of attorney and we suggest that you enlist the expertise of our estate planning attorneys to explain to you how that may be accomplished.