Healthcare directives are a vital part of the estate planning process. Healthcare directives serve to ensure that your final wishes are known and respected in the event of incapacity.
Without healthcare directives in place, your family may be unable to ensure you have the medical attention you need. Doctors may not be able to communicate with loved ones on your behalf. For this reason, thorough estate planning often includes the creation of healthcare directives so there are no barriers to future medical care.
At OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, we work with clients in Irvine, Huntington Beach, Anaheim Hills, and throughout Orange County, California on all matters related to estate planning, including the creation of comprehensive healthcare directives. Give us a call today to speak with one of our estate planning attorneys about arranging your affairs.
The Importance of Healthcare Directives
Healthcare directives are also referred to as advance care planning. Creating a healthcare directive is the process of considering your preferences in the event of a medical crisis and setting down these wishes in a legal document so they can be communicated to and fulfilled by your loved ones.
You may think that healthcare directives only address concerns related to end-of-life care. While advance care planning does encompass this, having healthcare directives in place is important at any stage of life.
Healthcare directives typically come into play when an individual is deemed incapable of making sound medical decisions. While this most often occurs in the later years, a person of any age can fall victim to an accident, injury, or illness that leaves them in a compromised state.
Taking the time to consider and set forth your medical preferences ensures your wishes are respected, even if you no longer possess the ability to communicate them. It also ensures that your doctors are legally able to communicate with those you’d wish to be in charge of your medical decisions.
The Benefits of Healthcare Directives
Arranging healthcare directives has virtually no downsides, but many benefits.
First, there is the question of medical wishes. While most people have a vague idea of their preferences about health-related matters, most don’t take the time to consider and plan for a medical crisis.
An estate planning attorney will walk you through the list of considerations that healthcare providers should take into account, such as preferences for the use of life-saving measures or organ donation. Whatever medical situation arises, you can exercise autonomous choice through advanced care planning.
Another key benefit of creating a healthcare directive is that it reduces family conflict. It’s common for family members to have differing opinions on what is best for a loved one or even to hold contradictory ideas about what that loved one might prefer.
Putting a healthcare directive in place removes some of the emotional burdens on your loved ones. Loved ones shouldn’t be left to guess what you would have wanted.
Considerations that Go into Healthcare Directives
One of the reasons that creating a healthcare directive is a good idea is that so many different medical options exist. Even if loved ones know your preferences on major medical decisions, countless smaller decisions may also need to be made if you require care.
Common elements considered in a healthcare directive include your preferences regarding:
- The use of life support
- Specific forms of life support, such as tube feeding or mechanical ventilation
- Pain relief options
- Organ donation
- Burial or cremation preferences
Not every person holds strong opinions on these types of medical decisions. However, taking the time to consider these matters and set forth a plan lifts the burden off your loved ones. In the midst of grieving your loss of capacity, it can help family members to know that they are respecting and fulfilling the choices you’ve made for yourself.
How Estate Planning Attorneys Help with the Creation of Directives
Healthcare directives are typically drawn up as a part of the estate planning process. Generally, a will and trust attorney will work with you to create both a will and a healthcare directive. At the same time, you may designate a power of attorney and medical power of attorney.
The person who receives a medical power of attorney becomes responsible for your medical care, ensuring that the preferences identified in a healthcare directive are followed as closely as possible.
Without designating a medical power of attorney or creating a healthcare directive, your healthcare providers are only legally permitted to have limited communication with your loved ones.
Patient confidentiality is a legal requirement that remains in place even after incapacity. Ensuring that loved ones have the legal standing to communicate with your healthcare providers ensures you are adequately cared for. It also saves family members from the added stress of making uninformed decisions.
An estate planning attorney will help to ensure that all legalities are attended to, including the creation and maintenance of necessary forms and documents.
Contact an Orange County Estate Planning Attorney Today
OC Wills & Trust Attorneys is a leading estate planning firm. Our award-winning lawyers can help you consider and plan for all aspects of your estate. Give us a call to learn more about setting up a healthcare directive today.