Westchester County Advanced Health Care Directive Lawyer

An Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) is a set of instructions that you prepare in advance that state your preference for your health care should you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate with your physicians or family members. For example, with an AHCD you can direct that a specific procedure or treatment be provided such as artificial nutrition, or direct that a specific procedure or treatment be withheld. In addition, with an AHCD you can select the person who will 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 consult an experienced Westchester County Advanced Health Care Directive Lawyer who will explain to you how advanced health care directives work and who will work closely to draft an AHCD that is consistent with your goals and beliefs.

What is an Advanced Health Care Directive?

An advanced health care directive is a general term for a set of documents that instructs loved ones and health care professionals about your preferences for your medical care in the event you become incapacitated and are not able to express your wishes. Advanced health care directives only become effective under the circumstances set forth in the directive.

In New York an AHCD typically includes a health care proxy and a living will. With a health care proxy you will appoint someone to act as your health care agent. This means that you give another person the legal authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. On the other hand a living will does not appoint someone to make decisions for you but states your wishes about health care in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself.

Under New York law, a healthy proxy and a living will will go into effect only after your doctor determines and documents that you are no longer able to make or communicate your health care decisions.

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. Your AHCD will address life-sustaining treatments. If your condition should deteriorate to the extent that you are in a terminal condition or you are permanently unconscious, you can state your preferences as to the specific treatments that you do or no not want to keep you alive such as:

  • Cardiac resuscitation
  • Mechanical respiration
  • Artificial nutrition and hydration
  • Antibiotics

Of course you can also state unequivocally that regardless of your conditions you want your life prolonged within the limits of generally accepted medical care standards.

Your AHCD can also address relief from pain. For example, you can direct that you want to be given pain relieving medications or other treatments designed to make you more comfortable. You can also include other, specific directions regarding your healthcare, such as whether you prefer to spend your last days at home or in a health care facility. You can also give specific instructions regarding organ donation. For example, you can state that you do not want any organs, tissues or parts donated, that you authorize all organs, tissues, or parts to be donated, or you can state specific organs, tissues or parts to be donated. Furthermore, you can state the purposes for which your donated organs can be used such as for transplant, therapy, research and education.

If a health care issue is not covered by your AHCD or if an instruction is unclear, than the agent you name in your health care proxy would have the authority to resolve the issue.

What if I do not have an AHCD?

The consequence of not having an AHCD is that neither your loved ones nor your doctors will know your wishes. This may make decision-making difficult as well-intentioned family members may disagree on the treatment you should receive. There have been well-publicized cases where family members were unable to agree on a course of treatment and the situation go so bad that the court had to step in. In such cases a judge may decide to 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 you should also let the person you name as your health care agent, family members, friends and even your primary care physician know your wishes. 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.

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 trust can also offer financial benefits such as tax savings and asset protection.

You should also have a durable power of attorney that will give someone you trust the authority to take care of you finances and other person matters should you become incapacitated.

I want to create an advanced health care directive. What should I do next?

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 you could potentially receive if you suffer a serious illness or accident. An experienced Westchester 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. 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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