Be Prepared: Advance Directives

January 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Many times my blog talks about end-of-life scenarios, and I try to give advice to readers on how to cope with an elderly parent and the care issues that may accompany. While it is important to make sure your aging relative has their affairs in order, it is also good advice for any adult.

Taking the time to organize legal papers, deciding on advance directives and setting up a power of attorney will prove invaluable to your family should a health emergency or accident occur.

Although these steps are from The National Institute on Aging (http://www.nia.nih.gov), it is still good advice for anyone wanting to prepare for an emergency:

  • Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You could set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or just list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add.
  • Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help.
  • Give consent in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your family as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your family may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form.

Unfortunately accidents and emergencies do happen and in spite of treatment, a condition may cause death. Because of this, preparing advance directives and a living will are important. The legal documents make the patient’s wishes clear to families and health care providers. With an advance directive, patients can decide whether they want aggressive treatments like resuscitation, breathing machines, feeding tubes and the like.

Two things to remember about advance directives and living wills is that, number one, in the U.S. one state may not honor another states’ directive documents. Be aware of your state’s laws if you had your documents prepared elsewhere. Secondly, if you update your directives, make sure that your family has a current copy. The most recent version will always be the version that is honored, so make sure your family knows if your wishes have changed.

Choosing a Power of Attorney authorizes someone to represent or act on your behalf in finanical, business, real estate or some other legal matter. There are actually three different types of Power of Attorney (definitions courtesy of the National Care Planning Concil, http://www.longtermcarelink.net):

  • General Power of Attorney – authorizes someone to handle your financial, banking and possibly real estate and government affairs. This document is revoked if the person granting the power becomes incompetent or incapacitated.
  • Special Power of Attorney – authorizes someone you designate to handle certain things you cannot do yourself for a period of time.
  • Durable Power of Attorney -The general, special and health care powers of attorney can all be made “durable” by adding certain text to the document. This means that the document will remain in effect or take effect if you become mentally incompetent.

We mentioned in last week’s blog that as a Life Care Plan client of Weekly Law, we provide a service called Docubank. Docubank is one way to store all of your advance directives and emergency medical information. The advantage to a service like Docubank is the immediate access to all of your legal documents. In case of an emergency, you won’t have to wait for your brother to search through your closet for the Power of Attorney, instead, if a client needs any of their documents for any reason, they simply call an 800 number, 24/7, and Docubank will fax their information anywhere requested.

Keeping all of these documents in order and current will help your family cope if they are faced with an emergency and it will insure that your wishes are respected. If you have any questions or concerns about creating advance directives, please contact the Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC. The law firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients. Their office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.

  Every day of every week, Weekly Law is there for you.

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