Planning ahead is key in life but creating a will or trust is often overlooked. It is an essential document addressing loved ones on how you would like to distribute your assets. Although it seems like this would cover all the bases, many times this not sufficient. In estate planning, not only is it necessary to plan for death, but one must also consider incapacity or mental disability. Otherwise, family is left with extremely difficult decisions on your care in regard to life saving or experimental medical procedures. Further complicating the matter is the opinions on these procedures may vary within family members based on religious interpretation.
This is why is vital to have a well drafted medical directive that can explain your opinions and thoughts to your family member. Keep in mind that during emotionally charged times, disputes arise between family members on how a loved one would like to be cared. Let’s take a closer look at what a medical directive is and why you need it in conjunction with an estate plan.
With proper planning, you can select the type of medical care you prefer quickly, minimizing suffering during the process. This also provides relief to loved ones as they are not making decisions for you, but they are rather carrying out and executing your decisions. It is important to consult with an experienced medical directive lawyer in Dallas, Texas to properly document your wishes into a legally binding document.
What is a Medical Directive?
First, let’s dive into what a medical directive is. Many times, this is referred to as an advance directive or “living will”. It communicates a person’s health care decisions to family in the event they are incapacitated. Incapacity could be where you are unable to speak for yourself.
Texas has three types of advanced directives:
For more information, check out this page by the American Cancer Society:
Most people like to think of an advance directive or living as something only an older aged person would need. But this isn’t always the case. It is a misconception that younger individuals who are healthy do not need an advance directive. While a person has the mental capacity to plan for unfortunate events, it is important to plan accordingly. In reality, younger individuals actually have much more to consider when we think about serious disease or an accident. With today’s medical tools, it could keep them alive for years in an incapacitated state. Therefore, every person needs an advance directive, regardless of your age, and your medical directive attorney in Dallas TX can help you.
The medical directive is a legally binding document that clearly defines medical treatments an individual would or would not want to be used as a lifesaving measures. The document also covers your interest in other medical options. For example, pain management and organ donation. It’s also a time to cover possible end-of-life care decisions. We always recommend talking to your doctor if you have questions about any of the following medical decisions: CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, tube hydration, dialysis, antibiotics or antiviral medications, palliative care, organ and tissue donations. Additionally, medical directives also address do not resuscitate (DNR) and do not intubate (DNI) orders.
Here’s a great reference article from the Mayo Clinic:
What If there is No Medical Directive?
A common question asked by our clients is what happens if medical directive does not exist? This is where Texas law defines that if someone does not have a medical directive, the doctor follows statutory guidelines with regards to whom to consult and in what order of priority. For the order of priority, the doctor consults the spouse, available adult children, parents, nearest living relatives, and finally, if none of the above are present – another doctor who is not part of the patient’s care. For more information, speak to your medical directive lawyer in Dallas.
Why is it Important to have a Medical Directive?
From the information detailed above, it’s easy to see why having a medical directive is necessary to override the priority list. This is particularly important, if family members have complicated relationships or estranged relationships with any one person. With an advanced directive, you choose who is allowed to make medical decision on your behalf in the event you cannot. Also, keep in mind, an advanced directive is only valid when the person who created it, cannot speak for themselves.
Another common question is what happens if I have a medical directive, and something changes? It is important to remember the medical directives can be revoked or amended at any time in the future. Medical directives are not a one-time, “set in stone” legal document. At the Kazi Law Firm, PLLC, our medical directive lawyers in Dallas, like to think of these as an ongoing conversation about what you want. It will and should change as your circumstances change. At a young age, you may not know what medical treatments you want, but you may be certain about who makes those decisions. At an older age or if you have a serious illness, and you know the course it is going to take, the directive will be far more detailed. Also, keep in mind that these advanced directives relate to healthcare decision-making and are in no way related to the ones that allow for financial decisions. Contact your medical directive lawyer in Dallas for additional information and clarification.
How Do I Create a Medical Directive?
Not only is creating the Medical Directive important but creating one that can actually be enforced in that time of need is critical. To ensure the Medical Directive can actually be enforced in those events, it is important to contact your Medical Powers of Attorney lawyer in Dallas to ensure it is properly drafted. It must include verbiage that effectively communicates your wishes to a doctor. Once the directive is written, two “disinterested” witnesses must also sign the documents with a notary present. Texas law defines a disinterested witness as a person that is not related to you by blood or marriage.
Reviewing & Changing Advance Directives
As explained above, a directive can be updated at any time as life events occur. To make changes to the directive a new one must be created, replacing any old copies. It is important to discuss the changes with your advanced medical directive lawyer in Dallas and your physician. This ensures the new directive replaces the old directive and is added to medical charts in hospitals and/or nursing homes. At the same time, it is important to discuss the new updates with loved ones and the appointed health care agent to ensure everyone is aware of the amendments.
Typically, a new directive is created during the following life events:
How Does a Medical Power of Attorney (POA) Work?
Several questions arise about the medical powers of attorney in Dallas and how it is different from the advanced directive. It is important to understand what a medical POA does and its limitations.
A medical or health care power of attorney is a type of advance directive where a person is appointed to make decisions in the event you cannot. The “Principal” is the person that created the POA. The “Principal” gives the ability to make medical decisions to what is known as the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent.” The medical POA only becomes active in the event a doctor believes that the principal is no longer legally competent to make medical decisions. As the “Agent” makes decisions for the “Principal”, they have to consider the principal’s health care wishes and religious beliefs.
The selection of the health care agent is a critical part of the process as not all events can be anticipated. In some instances, a person will have to make uncomfortable decisions for someone else. When selecting an agent, it is vital to consider the following criteria:
It’s also critical to define alternates in the event the primary person is not available or not willing to act. Always seek guidance from your advanced medical directive lawyer in Dallas.
What are the Limitations of Medical POA?
Further, it’s important to consider that the agent cannot legally make medical decisions for a principal unless a physician can attest that the principal cannot make decisions for themselves. Additionally, other statutory limitations prevent an agent from making decisions about psychosurgery, abortion, convulsive treatment, or voluntary inpatient mental health services.
Therefore, drafting or interpreting a medical power of attorney in Texas requires the skill and competence of an experienced medical directive lawyer in Dallas. The knowledgeable team at the Kazi Law Firm, PLLC, can aid you with preparing this crucial estate planning document.
What are Other Ways to Plan Ahead for Times of Need?
Planning ahead is crucial to lifetime happiness, and that is why comprehensive estate planning is key. A defined set of your directives makes thing easier for all the loved ones around you in times of need. Therefore, the advance directive is just one step in the vital estate planning process.
During this process, you also must consider memorials, burial services, end-of-life celebrations, or cremation. Understanding the process early in life provides peace of mind and helps ensure that your wishes are known. This also removes the burden from family members to confirm that your final desires are followed to your satisfaction. Speaking with your medical directive lawyer in Dallas will provide the comfort and solace that you need to transcribe your wishes formally and legally.