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Changing Seasons: Advanced Medical Directives

Estate planning is essential. Big changes in life mean changes to estate planning documentation, including your medical directives. An inheritance, divorce or marriage could change choices made years earlier.

Any person over the age of 18 should have a medical directive, regardless of wealth. While end-of-life decisions are generally equated with the aged, accidents and sudden illnesses can incapacitate, leaving even young people without a voice in their palliative care.

Two primary instruments needed in New York include:

  • Health care proxy: A health care proxy is an individual chosen to carry out medical decisions for you when you are no longer able to speak for yourself. This may include  making decisions about medications, procedures, treatments, life-saving measures and end-of-life care. Before you choose a proxy, consider if the individual you have in mind can carry out difficult decisions in a high-stress atmosphere. A health care proxy makes only medically related decisions and cannot make decisions related to your finances or business affairs.
  • Living will: A living will speaks for you when you cannot and gives guidance and support to your health care proxy, your family and your doctors. Your living will should specifically address your wishes for life-sustaining care, relief from pain, resuscitation, organ or tissue donation and other concerns.

Medical care directives can be revoked at any time. For example, if you name your spouse as your health care proxy and later get divorced, that choice is nulled unless you indicate so in writing.

Creating advanced medical directives gives you peace of mind should you suddenly become incapacitated, and gives your proxy and family comfort in knowing you are cared for as you wished to be. If you have questions about health care proxies or medical directives, speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Se habla español.

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