A comprehensive estate plan should allow you to account for unexpected situations, including health care emergencies. The most common concern is if someone becomes unable to make competent decisions or care for oneself, and has not made arrangements in advance, who has the authority to make health care decisions for that person? There is a mechanism by which a court can appoint court-supervised conservator to manage your health care, be responsible for your care, and make health care decisions on your behalf.
Conservatorships have several benefits and drawbacks. In certain cases, a conservatorship might be needed, and it is important to document a choice of conservator should that circumstance arise. However, the process of conservatorship can generally be avoided through a document called Advance Health Care Directive that allows you to name “attorney-in-fact” or “healthcare agents.”
Advance Health Care Directives (AHCD), also known as “Living Will” or “Health Care Power of Attorney’’ are a vital part of a comprehensive estate plan. An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to designate one or more persons to make health care decisions, if you are unable to do so yourself. You can also include your wishes for important health care decisions, such as life-sustaining treatment, instructions regarding specific medical treatments, or any medical treatments that you wish to withhold, organ donations, and dispositions of remains after death. Advance Health Care Directives are especially important if you have limited family members, or have very specific preferences for medical decisions.
If you are young and healthy, and feel that your choice of health care agents may change, it is helpful to keep in mind that you can revoke or amend your Advance Health Care Directive. An attorney can draft an Advance Health Care Directive for you, and can advise you about sharing the AHCD with your agents, family members, and care givers.
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