When New Yorkers prepare for the future, they usually think about a will. However, a will is just the beginning. For example, what happens when a person becomes incapacitated? Who gets to make medical decisions for them?
Estate planning can help by setting up a durable power of attorney for health care. Typically, a durable power of attorney for health care will provide directions regarding which kind of medical treatment the person wants -- and which treatments the person does not if they would only delay death.
As part of creating a durable power of attorney for health care, a person should talk to their family about their desires, both because it gives them the opportunity to provide feedback and, second, it will help them express the person's intent accurately to medical staff.
A durable power of attorney for health care should discuss several important topics. First, what to do when hooked up to feeding tubes. The person needs to determine if they want the tubes to keep supplying them food and water even if they are in a vegetative state.
Second, the document should grant the authority to make arrangements regarding health care services as well as the power to grant releases, such as those needed prior to surgery.
Third, the power of attorney should permit the person with power of attorney the authority to obtain information regarding the drafter. Typically, this kind of information is nearly impossible to obtain without a power of attorney due to the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act.
Finally, the power of attorney should grant authority regarding the drafter's body after death. This includes how to deal with autopsy and anatomical gifts. Again, the drafter should make their desires clear ahead of time.
Once the drafter has created a durable power of attorney for health care, he should make sure that his doctor has a copy.
Source: The Missourian, "Common Estate Planning Mistakes: Failure to Have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care," Walter A. Murray Jr., July 6, 2012