and Your Family
Suffolk County AHCD
It may be difficult to think about making plans for your care and treatment in the event you are in a terrible accident or suffer a serious illness that leaves you unable to make decisions about your personal care. Nevertheless, in the face of such a health care crisis, an advance health care directive (AHCD) is an effective way to make certain that you receive the care and treatment you would have requested if you were able. In the absence of an AHCD, your family members will be left to figure out the best way to care for you as well as how to deal with your financial affairs. While most family members will want to do what is best for you, family members do not always agree on what that means. As an important part to your overall estate plan it is vital for all adults to consider executing advance directives, not just older adults. An experienced Suffolk County AHCD lawyer will explain to you how advance directives and other estate documents will help ensure that your wishes are followed should you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself, and will work closely with your to draft advance directives that clearly express your wishes.Advance health care directive
Commonly an AHCD consists of a living will and a health care proxy. Together these two documents give authority for someone to make health care decisions for you as well as instructions for doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, and family members as to what type of medical care you want to receive should you in some way become incapacitated so that you are unable to make decisions on your own.
Health care proxy. A health care proxy is essentially a durable power of attorney for health care. This document allows you to name another person, referred to as your health care agent, to make decisions for you in the event you become mentally incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself. You can appoint anyone to be your health care agent as long as that person is at least 18 years old. Oftentimes the person selected to fill the role is someone who knows you well such as a spouse, child, parent, or close friend. Whoever it is, it is important that the person understands your values and that you have open discussions as to what your preferences are under various scenarios. It is important that your health care agent is willing to make difficult decisions on your behalf based on your wishes, even if the decision is inconsistent with his (or her) own beliefs. To learn more about executing a health care proxy that meets your needs and that is consistent with New York law, contact an experienced Suffolk County AHCD lawyer.
Living will. A living will is not the same as a last will and testament in which you indicate who should receive your property upon your death. With a living will you provide specific instructions as to what should be done if you become incapacitated and there is little chance of your recovery. In other words, it contains instructions related to end of life treatment decisions. For example, your living will can state whether or not your would like to receive artificial nutrition and hydration. Artificial nutrition and hydration are treatments that allow a person to receive nutrition and hydration when he (or she) is no longer able to take them by mouth. This type of treatment gives the person enough nutrition and hydration to sustain life. Without it, the person would pass way.
Another example of an instruction you give in your living will is the circumstances under which you would or would not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR is an emergency treatment used to restart a heart that has stopped (cardiac arrest) or when breathing has stopped (respiratory arrest). For cardiac arrest the treatment may include chest compressions, electrical stimulation or use of medication to restore the heart’s ability to function. Treatment for respiratory arrest may include insertion of a tube through your mouth or nose into the trachea to artificially support or restore breathing function. The tube is connected to a mechanical ventilator.
To learn more about the instructions that you can include in your living will, contact an experienced Suffolk County AHCD lawyer.Absence of an AHCD
No matter how well your family members know you, if you do not have an AHCD you cannot be assured that they will make decisions for your health care that are consistent with your values and goals. Furthermore, your loved ones may disagree on your treatment, causing further pain among your family members at an already stressful time. Your doctors may not agree with your decisions. Without evidence of what you would want, your doctors may refuse to move forward. Instead, it may be necessary to get the Surrogate’s Court involved.
If there are no instructions the Surrogate’s Court may appoint a guardian for you. To initiate the process a family member, friend, or healthcare facility can petition the court. If the court determines that a guardian is needed, it will appoint one. The designated guardian will have the authority health care decisions for you. If the court deems it necessary, it will also give the same guardian or another guardian authority to make financial decisions for you. The guardian may be a family member, of may be stranger who is a professional guardian. The result could be that not only are your wishes not followed, as they may be unknown, but the assets in your estate may be in jeopardy as they may be used to pay for extended medical care that you would not have wanted, or fees related to a guardianship. To learn more about the guardian appointment process, contact an experienced Suffolk County AHCD lawyer.Other important estate documents
An important part of estate planning is planning for the possibility that one day you may be mentally incapacitated. However, estate planning involves other important documents and strategies.
- Will. A will is an estate document in which you as the testator specify who is to receive your property once you pass away and also names an executor who will be responsible for managing your estate. With a will you can also name a guardian for your minor children. In New York, in order to be valid you must be at least 18 years old and you must be of "sound mind." You also must sign the will at the end and at least 2 people must sign the will. The witnesses must be at least 18 years old and must be competent. There are several different types of wills including a joint will, reciprocal wills, pour-over wills, holographic wills and nuncupative wills. The specific type of will that should make depends on factors such as your goals and your circumstances at the time of execution.
- Trust. A trust is an arrangement under which your designate a trustee to manage property that you transfer to the trust for the benefit of beneficiaries whom you designated. There are many kinds of trusts, some created during your lifetime, know as living trusts. Others are created by your will, known as testamentary trusts. There are several different types of trusts such as special needs trusts, education trusts, minor trusts, and spendthrift trusts. Some types of trusts allow your estate to avoid probate and will minimize estate tax liability.
- Asset protection. Another aspect of estate planning is asset protection. The purpose of asset protection is to protect your assets from creditors in a manner that will not leave you susceptible to fraudulent transfer liability. As an AHCD attorney in Suffolk County will explain, while the law does not allow you to create an asset protection plan to dodge current creditors, it is acceptable and wise to create an asset protection plan to protect your assets from future creditors.
As with all of your estate documents, you should periodically revisit your AHCD to make sure that it continues to be consistent with your wishes. You can revoke or change your AHCD at any time as long as you are competent. A new AHCD will automatically override any previous ones. To learn more about the advantages of an AHCD as well as other estate documents such as a will or a trust, contact the To learn more about the instructions that you can include in your living will, contact an experienced AHCD lawyer serving Suffolk County at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We can help. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Suffolk County, Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Long Island, and Westchester County.