Most people associate estate planning with protecting their assets, as well as ensuring that loved ones will receive an inheritance. While these are important aspects of estate planning, there are also a number other factors to consider that go into the process, including planning for physical or mental incapacity. Preparing for this eventuality may be uncomfortable, but it can help ensure that in the event of a medical crisis, a person’s wishes regarding medical care and handling their estate are respected. If you already have a will or a trust and have questions about including an advance medical directive, or are just beginning the estate planning process, you should consider speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney who can explain your legal options and ensure that your interests are protected.
There are a number of different types of advance medical directives that testators can put into place. However, one of the most common is a durable power of attorney for healthcare, which is also known as a healthcare proxy and enables people to designate a third party to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. Essentially, the designated person will be responsible for consulting with doctors to ensure that the type of care that the incapacitated person prefers is provided. When these types of proxies are not put in place in advance, a person’s loved ones will be forced to go to court and ask that someone be appointed to make medical decisions on the incapacitated person’s behalf, which can be a time-consuming process.
A living will is an additional advance directive that can also be used to specify the type of care an individual wants to receive upon becoming terminally ill and is unable to communicate their preferences about treatment at the end of their life. For instance, these types of documents are regularly used by those who don’t want a ventilator or feeding tube to be used if they are required to prolong life.
Do Not Resuscitate Orders, or DNRs, are orders that notify doctors and other emergency personnel that they are not to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a person to keep them alive. DNRs are often used along with other directives by those who do not wish to receive life sustaining treatment in the event of terminal illness or injury.
A Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is similar to a DNR in that it is created by those who don’t want to receive extraordinary life prolonging measures if they become critically ill or injured. One key difference between these documents, however, is that POLSTs are prepared by a person’s physician after end of life treatment options have been discussed. Rather than being considered a legal document, POLSTs are instead treated as binding doctor’s orders that are stored with a patient’s medical records and declare their preference when it comes to receiving life sustaining treatments, such as artificial nutrition and hydration through the use of feeding tubes, intubation, and the use of antibiotics.
By creating advance medical directives, a person can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their wishes will be respected regardless of the circumstances. To learn more, please contact one of the dedicated Skokie estate planning attorneys at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 today.