Protecting Your Health and Medical Wishes in Your Estate Plan

EKG.jpgIf you think you don’t need to do any estate planning because you don’t have any assets to protect, you could be making a critical error. Yes, an estate plan does protect property, but it can also protect something far more important: your ability to make your own decisions.

If you are ever in a situation where you require medical attention but cannot speak or express yourself, some of the stress of that situation may be relieved–both for yourself and for your family–if you have taken the time to document in advance your wishes for your care and have assigned someone you trust to make decisions for you. You can do this in a few different ways with the following estate planning tools:

  1. A living will or health care directive – This document describes any wishes you have regarding medical treatments, life-saving efforts, food and water, and palliative care. It can also express your intent regarding organ donation and burial versus cremation. This document can be as specific as you want it to be. You can also explain your goals, fears, and beliefs and how they relate to your medical wishes.
  2. A psychiatric advance directive – In Minnesota, people with mental health disorders can have a psychiatric advance directive, or PAD. This document can explain your wishes regarding intrusive mental health treatments like the use of restraints if you become incapable of making decisions as a result of your condition. You can also appoint a proxy to make decisions regarding your care.
  3. A health care power of attorney – A health care power of attorney gives someone permission to make decisions on your behalf. Such decisions can include where you live, whether to consent to specific treatments, and who will be the health care provider, among other things.

These documents are also critical elements of an estate plan that directs the disposition of your property, so it is important that you not overlook or marginalize them. To ensure you have these and other important planning documents in place and properly prepared, consult an experienced estate planning attorney.