How do health care directives work?

by | Aug 17, 2021 | Estate Planning

Advanced care planning is not just for those who are older or in poor health. A medical crisis can impact individuals and their families at any time, and too often, it happens to those with no directives in place. The general goal of health care directives is to ensure that you get the medical care you want when you can’t speak for yourself. It also relieves loved ones and doctors of the pressure of trying to guess what you want.

Healthcare directives are legal documents

Valid directives are legal documents that outline potential treatments and your health goals. The needs of individuals and families will vary, but there are two primary directives:

  • A durable power of attorney is the legal appointment of a Health Care Agent or proxy. They become active once a doctor determines that you can’t make your own health care decisions and end when you recover or pass away.
  • A living will offers guidelines that a Health Care Agent implements on your behalf.

Preparing your documents

It is often helpful if you talk to your doctor at the beginning of the process. They can provide background information that may influence your decisions. You will also need to identify the person who acts as your health care agent. People will often want to pick a family member, but the right choice should involve someone comfortable with this responsibility.

An attorney can help with the process as well. They can help make sure the documents address all key issues and are compliant with the laws here in Pennsylvania.

Once the documents are complete, it is good to make copies and put the original in a safe place. We recommend that copies be provided to doctors and/or hospitals with whom you routinely treat, especially your primary physician.  Those who reside in more than one state may need to draft different versions that are valid in each place.