Nassau County Advanced Health Care Directive

If you have a health problem that results in you losing your ability to communicate, and prior to this health crisis you left unambiguous instructions concerning your medical treatment, under the law those instructions must be followed. To ensure that your instructions and intentions are honored, there are specific estate planning tools that you should use to memorialize your wishes. For financial issues, the best tools to use are a trust and a financial power of attorney. These documents will help protect your assets and will also make sure your affairs are managed properly at a time when you are unable to manage them yourself. For health care issues, creating an advanced health care directive (AHCD) that details your medical treatment preferences will ensure that the appropriate people understand your wishes. An advanced health care directive can have a significant and in some cases irreversible affect on your future. In order to make sure that your wishes are understood and followed it must be properly written and executed according to the requirements of New York law. To make sure that your AHCD is properly drafted and executed, it is important that you contact an experienced Nassau County advanced health care directive lawyer who will educate you not only on the specifics of how advanced health care directives work, but who will also help you develop an estate plan that includes other important components such as a last will and testament.

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What is an advanced health care directive?

The term advanced health care directive refers to a document that directs and instructs family, friends, health care professionals, any other appropriate individuals about how you want your medical care handled should you become mentally incapacitated such that you are unable to communicate your preferences. An AHCD becomes effective only under the specific circumstances described in the AHCD.

An AHCD generally includes a durable power of attorney for health care. A durable power of attorney is a document in which you name a health care agent to make health care related decisions for you only if you are incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself. While powers of attorney generally become void when a person becomes incapacitated a durable power of attorney does not. While a spouse is most often named as a health care agent in a durable power of attorney, you can name whomever you want including your child, parent, or friend. Regardless of whom you name, that person should know you well, and you should inform the person in advance of your intention to name him or her as your health care agent.

What types of instructions are typically in an AHCD?

When you create your AHCD you have a great deal of flexibility as to what to include. You can even have different instructions based on your diagnosis and your prognosis. Advanced health care directives typically focus on the types of life-prolonging treatments you want to have or prefer not to have should your medical condition become so dire that there is little chance that you will recover and enjoy a reasonable quality of life. For example, you can state your preferences about the use of a CPR, a respirator, blood transfusions, dialysis, drugs, and surgery.

Your AHCD direct can also give your family, friends and doctors directions with respect to food and water. If you are unconscious, in a coma, or in a vegetative state, your doctor will order that you be given nutrition intravenously or through a feeding tube unless it is clear that you prefer not to be given nutrition under such conditions. It is not unusual for people in n many cases even people who are in a vegetative state or coma can live for years with tube feeding. This may or may not be what you want. It is important to indicate your preference in your AHCD.

Other issues that you can address in your advanced health care directive include whether or not our want palliative care, your preferences with respect to organ donation, authority to handle your finances, and selection of health care professionals and facilities.

What if I do not have an AHCD?

If you fail to execute an AHCD your family may not know your wishes, or your family may not have proof of your wishes. This may make decision-making difficult as caring family members may disagree on the treatment you should receive. There are even cases in wish the doctors refuse follow what family members agree are the wishes of the patient in the absence of an AHCD. In extreme cases the matter may end up in the hands of the court and a judge will create a conservatorship. If this happens, someone appointed by the court will be given the power to make health care decisions for you while you are incapacitated. This person is called a conservator. A conservatorship may result in your wishes not being followed as the conservator may not know what they are. Furthermore, the appointment of a conservator may be a drain on your estate as a conservator is paid from the assets of your estate.

It is important to understand that an AHCD is essential to an estate plan for everybody—not just people who are older or who are ill. Every adult should consider having one no one knows when a serious illness will strike or life-threatening accident will happen.

Where can I learn more about advanced health care directives?

There are many complex and emotional issues to consider when making an advanced health care directive. It is important that you understand the medical impact quality of life consequences of the possible treatments available should you suffer a serious illness or accident. An experienced Nassau County estate planning attorney will understand both the legal issues related to living wills and durable power of attorneys as well as the medical issues related to end of life conditions. In addition, as with all of your estate planning documents, you should periodically revisit your advanced health care directive to make sure that it continues to be consistent with your current wishes. You can revoke or change your advanced health care directive at any time. To learn more about the advantages of an advanced health care directive as well as other estate planning tools, contact Stephen Bilkis and Associates. We will help you develop an overall estate plan that reflects your individual goals. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan.

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