One of the matters that a comprehensive estate plan is going to address is that of health care preferences. Much has been written recently about which end-of-life medical procedures may or may not be implemented, but we all have the power to control our own destinies in that regard. There is a legal instrument that should be a part of every estate plan that is known as an advance health care directive. An individual states his or her preferences in this document pursuant to matters such as the use of life support systems or other medical procedures, and these wishes become legally binding.
People can also execute what is called a healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney, and this is something that all same sex couples should include in their estate plan. This document appoints a person of your choosing to make your medical decisions if you become incapacitated and unable to state your wishes. Clearly, individuals who are engaged in same sex unions are not inherently empowered to make these decisions for their partners in the eyes of the law. Plus, even if you are legally married now, given the ongoing legal battles that are taking place you can never be certain that the nuptials will remain legally valid into perpetuity.
A recent order issued by the president requires hospitals to honor advance directives executed by people engaged in same sex unions, and this includes the right to visitation. One can even exclude people from the right to visitation if they so choose via a visitation directive.
In most states, the inherent rights of same sex couples are not a given. But, recourse is available in the form of intelligent and creative estate planning, and advance health care directives are a way to take make sure that your wishes are carried out and your preferences are honored.
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