You may have planned ahead by creating a will or trust so that your loved ones know how you would like your assets to be distributed in the future. But unfortunately, this critical measure may not be enough. In estate planning, it is imperative to not only plan for death but also incapacity or mental disability. Without proper planning, your family could be left to make difficult, gut-wrenching decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes or stance on life-saving or experimental medical procedures.
Therefore, it is critical to have a well-drafted medical directive in place to communicate your thoughts and wishes to your loved ones. During an emotionally charged time, disputes often arise between family members, children, siblings, and parents regarding a loved one’s wishes regarding medical care. Let’s delve deeper into this topic by exploring what a medical directive is and how it works in tandem with your estate plan?
By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering, and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf. It is prudent to consult with an experienced medical directive lawyer in Frisco to memorialize your wishes in a legally binding document.
What is a Medical Directive?
A medical directive is also known as an advance directive or “living will” and allows a person to communicate their health care decision to loved ones in case they become incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. There are essentially three types of advanced directives in Texas. The first one is a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates, which requires an individual to communicate in writing what they want to happen in certain scenarios. For example, following a traumatic head injury, how long would you want to be placed on a ventilator if there is little chance for you to regain brain function? The second one is a Medical Power of Attorney, which appoints a trusted person to make decisions if the individual becomes incapacitated. Finally, the third type of directive is an Out of Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order.
Unfortunately, an advance directive or living will is often thought of as a document that is designed exclusively for older people. That’s not the case. There is a misconception that young, healthy people don’t need to have an advance directive, but it is important to develop a plan while you still have the legal capacity to do so. Younger adults actually have more at stake because, if stricken by serious disease or accident, medical technology may keep them alive in a vegetative state for decades. Every adult needs an advance directive, and your medical directive attorney in Frisco TX can assist you with creating this crucial document.
This written, legal document spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as your preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation. You should address a number of possible end-of-life care decisions in your living will. Talk 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.
What If there is No Medical Directive?
Often clients ask what happens in the absence of a medical directive. Under Texas law, if someone does not have a medical directive, the doctor will follow statutory guidelines with regards to whom to consult and in which order of priority. For example, in order of priority, the doctor will consult the spouse, reasonably available adult children, parents, nearest living relative, and finally, if none of the aforementioned are available – another doctor who is not involved in the person’s care. For additional information, speak to your medical directive lawyer in Frisco when embarking on your estate planning journey.
Why is it Important to have a Medical Directive?
As you can see, it’s imperative to have a medical directive to override this priority list if you have strained relations with the family members mentioned or if you have an estranged relationship with any one person to the extent that they have not spoken to you in years. An advanced directive allows you to choose the individuals you trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. Remember, an advanced directive only becomes valid and enforceable when the person who created it is unable to speak for themselves.
These medical directives can also be revoked or amended at any time. More than just a legal document, an advance directive is an ongoing conversation about what’s important to you. You can change it as your circumstances change. When you’re young, you may not know what medical treatments you want, but you may be certain about who you want to make those decisions. If you’re in your 70s or you have a serious illness and you know the course it is going to take, you may put it in more detail. Please keep in mind that these advanced directives only pertain to healthcare decision-making and are different from the ones that allow for financial decisions to be made. Consult with your medical directive lawyer in Frisco for additional information and clarification.
How Do I Create a Medical Directive?
There are several legal formalities or requirements to ensure that an advanced directive is enforceable. It is prudent to allow your medical directive lawyer in Frisco to draft these directives and include verbiage that effectively communicates your wishes to the medical team. Additionally, two “disinterested” witnesses must also sign the documents in the presence of a notary. A disinterested witness is a person that is not related to you by blood or marriage.
Reviewing & Changing Advance Directives
As mentioned before, you can modify your directives at any time. If you want to make changes, you must create a new medical directive, distribute new copies, and destroy all old copies. You should discuss changes with your advanced medical directive lawyer in Frisco as well as your primary care physician to make sure a new directive replaces an old directive in your files. New directives must also be added to medical charts in a hospital or nursing home. Also, talk to your health care agent, family, and friends about changes you have made to ensure that everyone is privy to your wishes.
Consider reviewing your directive and creating a new one in the following situations:
How Does a Medical Power of Attorney (POA) Work?
There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the medical powers of attorney in Dallas and how it differs from the advanced directive that we discussed. Thus, it is critical to understand what a medical POA does and what are its limitations
A medical or health care power of attorney is a type of advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. The person creating the POA is known as the “principal,” and the person given the ability to make the medical decision is known as the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent.” A medical POA goes into effect when a doctor deems that a principal is no longer legally competent to make medical decisions. In making decisions for the principal, the agent must consider not only the principal’s health care wishes but also their religious beliefs.
Choosing a person to act as your health care agent is vital. Even if you have other legal documents regarding your care, not all situations can be anticipated, and some situations will require someone to make a judgment about your likely care wishes. You should choose a person who meets the following criteria: a person that is willing and able to discuss medical care and end-of-life issues with you can be trusted to make decisions that adhere to your wishes, values, and moral beliefs, and can be trusted to be your advocate if there are disagreements about your care. The agent could be your spouse, adult child, family member, close friend, or a trusted member of your faith community. It’s prudent to choose one or more alternates in the case the primary person is unable or unwilling to fulfill the role. It’s best to seek guidance from your advanced medical directive lawyer in Frisco.
What are the Limitations of Medical POA?
The most significant constraint is that an agent is not legally allowed to make medical decisions for the principal unless and until a physician certifies that the principal can no longer make decisions for themself. Other statutory limitations prevent the 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 Frisco. 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?
Creating an advance directive is just one step in the estate planning process. Additionally, you can plan for memorials, burial services, end-of-life celebrations, or cremation. Planning provides peace of mind and helps ensure that your wishes are known. It 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 Frisco will provide the comfort and solace that you need to transcribe your wishes formally and legally.