Suffolk County Advanced Health Care Directive Lawyer

An Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) allows you to state your health care preferences in the event you become incapacitated and cannot communicate with your physicians or family members. With an AHCD you can direct that a specific procedure or treatment be provided, such as hydration or nutrition, or direct that a specific procedure or treatment be withheld. With an AHCD you can also named a person to act as your agent in making health care decisions for you, if it is determined that you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself. Because the directions that you include in an AHCD can have a significant impact on the course of your life, it is important to contact an experienced Suffolk County Advanced Health Care Directive Lawyer who will explain to you how advanced health care directives work, as well as who they fit into an overall estate plan.

What is an Advanced Health Care Directive?

An advanced health care directive is a general term for a document that directs and instructs family members, friends and health care professionals about your medical care in the event you become incapacitated and are not able to express your wishes. It only becomes effective under the circumstances set forth in the advanced health care directive.

An advanced health care directive in which you appoint a health care agent is also called a durable power of attorney and the person you appoint as your health care agent is also referred to as your attorney-in-fact. Your attorney-in-fact will have the legal authority to make health care related decisions for you only if you are incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself. You can name anyone to chose to be your attorney-in-fact such as your spouse, child, parent, or friend. However, the person you name should know you well. You should let that person know in advance that you want him or her to be your health care agent. Have candid discussions as to what your preferences are under various scenarios. For example, you should let your health care agent know what your preference would be if you end up in a vegetative state.

An advanced health care directive also allows you to create a living will. In a living will instead of giving someone the authority to make decisions for you, you provide specific instructions as to what should be done if you become incapacitated.

What Types of Instructions are in an AHCD?

In creating detailed instructions about your healthcare in your AHCD, you have a significant amount of flexibility. You can have different instructions based on your prognosis. Advanced health care directives often address what type of life-prolonging treatment that you would or would not prefer to be given, particularly if there is little chance that you will recover and enjoy a reasonable quality of life. Treatments that you may be addressed in an advanced health care directive include CPR, use of a respirator, blood transfusions, diagnosis tests, dialysis, drugs, and surgery.

Your advanced health care direct can also give your family, friends and physicians direction regarding 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. In many cases even people who are in a vegetative state or coma can live for years with tube feeding. If this is not what you would want, then you should say so in your advanced health care directive.

Whether or not you want comfort care and pain medication are also issues property addressed in your advanced health care directive. Comfort care, also referred to as palliative care, refers to treatment that does not necessarily prolong life, but allows you to remain comfortable until you pass away naturally. Comfort care focuses on ensuring that you have the best quality of life given the reality of your medical condition. Comfort care may also include administering pain medication. You can indicate in your advanced health care directive whether you would like to spend your last days and receive comfort care at a hospital, at a hospice, or at home.

Other issues that you can address in your advanced health care directive include organ donation, authority to handle your finances, and selection of health professionals and facilities.

What if I do not have an AHCD?

The consequence of not having an advanced health care directive is that your loved ones will not know your wishes. This may make decision-making difficult as well-intentioned family members may disagree on the treatment you should receive. 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 who may or may not be a family member will be given the authority to make financial and health care decisions for you while you are incapacitated. A conservator of the estate will take care of financial matters while a conservator of the person will make decisions related to heath care. The court may appoint one person to handle both jobs. The conservator will not be accountable to your family, but will be accountable to and supervised by the court.

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.

For your advanced health care directive to be effective, it is important that your family understands your wishes in advance. This means that not only should you leave detailed instructions in your advanced health care directive, but your should also let your family and friends know your wishes. Such a conversation may be emotional and difficult. You family may not agree with your choices. However, if you have an advanced health care directive, even if they do not agree with your choices, at least they will understand that you did indeed make those choices.

Advanced health care directives is essential to an estate plan. They are not only for those who are older or who are facing a serious illness. Every adult should consider having one as it is important do know when a serious illness will strike or life-threatening accident will happen.

What Else Should be Part of My Estate Plan?

An advanced health care directive is not commonly thought of as a document that is part of an estate plan. However, it is an important component. As you prepare for your future financial life and personal life, as well as for the futures of your family members, you will need other essential documents such as a will and a trust.

A last will and testament allows you to provide for your loved ones after you pass away. You can leave gifts of cash, stocks, bonds, real property, jewelry, and collectibles to those you care about. You can also indicate in your will who will serve as the guardian for minor children who survive you.

A trust also allows you to provide for your loved ones after you pass away. However, trusts allow you to give gifts during your lifetime. At the same time, if you chose to you can retain control over the assets you give away. Depending on the type of trust, a trusts also offer financial benefits such as tax savings and asset protection.

The components that you should consider for your comprehensive estate plan will depend on the size of your estate as well as your personal and financial goals. A well thought out plan and properly draft and executed estate plan documents will ensure that you meet your personal and financial goals for you and your family.

There are many complex and emotional issues to contemplate when creating an advanced health care directive. It is vital that you understand the medical impact of the treatments that could potentially receive if you suffer a serious illness or accident. An experienced Suffolk County Advanced Health Care Directive Lawyer will understand both the legal and medical issues related to end of life situations. In addition, as with all of your estate planning documents, you should occasionally review your advanced health care directive to make certain that it continues to be consistent with your current wishes. You can revoke or change your advanced health care directive at any time as long as you have the mental capacity to do so. To learn more about the advantages of an advanced health care directive as well as other estate planning tools such as will and trust, contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC. 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. We serve individuals throughout the following locations:

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