What is a Living Will, Health Care Directive, Advance Directive for Health Care and an Advance Medical Directive,  and how are these different from a Health Care Agent, Health Care Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a Health Care Proxy?  Why do I need any of these documents?

A Living Will, Health Care Directive, Advance Directive for Health Care, or a Advance Medical Directive, all relate to an instruction by an individual specifying what medical actions should or should not be taken for that person’s health care in the event that he or she is unable to make those decisions due to an accident, illness, or incapacity (also referred to as “incompetency.”)  A Health Care Agent, Health Care Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or Health Care Proxy, all relate to the person you designate to make those medical decisions on your behalf.    A properly executed document should include both a directive as to what health care decisions are to be made on your behalf as well as designating  the person to make those decisions.  Together with a General Durable Power of Attorney (for financial matters), a properly drafted Health Care Directive can avoid the cost and unnecessary Court involvement of a Guardianship proceeding.

It is important to discuss your desires with the person you chose as your Health Care Agent so that you are assured that he or she understands your wishes and will carry them out.  A properly drafted Advance Medical Directive should provide for the choice of physician, hospital or nursing home and the right to transfer to a different facility even if there is a “too unstable for transport” designation so that your Health Care Agent can assure compliance with your wishes.  Your Advance Medical Directive can also include an out of hospital “Do Not Resuscitate Order” or “DNR” if your desire.  A properly drafted Health Care Directive should clearly provide for the disclosure of all protected health information as defined under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) and a waiver of the “physician-patient privilege”  so that there is no problem for your agent to obtain your medical records.

You should  have at least two original copies of your Advance Medical Directive.   This allows you to keep one for yourself and provide the other original copy to your Health Care Agent or Proxy.   You may also choose to provide a copy of your Advance Medical Directive to your family doctor so that it can be made part of your medical records.   It may also be wise carry in your wallet or purse information identified as “In Case of Emergency” or “ICE”, or even on your cell phone, identifying your Health Care Agent so that medical professionals can contact that person immediately if necessary.

The Law Office of Richard M. Cohen will assist you to draft this important estate planning document to properly handle your personal affairs.