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Estate Planning

Medical Directives
Being physically and/or mentally unable to make important health care decisions for yourself is not a pleasant thought. But addressing that situation and stating your medical preferences - should that situation arise - can give an important measure of comfort. Most everyone is familiar with the "Living Will." It expresses your wishes for medical treatment — or the withholding of medical treatment - when you cannot do so. I go one step further and include it in a "Health Care Power of Attorney," in which you name a specific family member of friend to make the decision you would want. Hopefully the document will never be necessary; but if so, its importance is hard to overestimate. Without it, unpleasant consequences - for everyone - can ensue.

Take the case of Terry Schiavo. She was just 26 years old when an accident put her in a coma that lasted more than a decade. Because she did not have a living will and did not designate someone to make medical decisions for her, family members were pitted against one another in a costly legal battle. I have drafted many Livings Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney over the years. Some of them have been customized to fit individual preferences. Living Wills and HealthCare Powers of Attorney are advance health care directives. The Living Will provides a guide to your medical treatment should you become unable to express your preferences, and the Health Care Power of Attorney names someone to implement them.

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