Throughout the course of a single day you make thousands of choices and decisions without even thinking about them. Your ability to make those decisions is something we all take for granted. What would happen though if you were suddenly unable to make decisions for yourself? Who would you want to make those decisions for you if they relate to health care treatment? In addition, are there choices you feel strongly about that you wish to have honored? If so, you should consider executing Advanced Directives for Health Care and including them in your overall estate plan.
An advanced directive is a legal document that allows you to make important decisions now that may affect the medical care and treatment you receive at a later point in your life. The State of Missouri recognizes two advanced directives – the Healthcare Choices Directive and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Choices, A better understanding of what each one accomplishes will help you decide if it is right for you.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to appoint someone as your “Agent.” Your Agent will step in and make decisions relating to your medical care should you be unable to make them yourself at some point in the future. Before the authority to make those decisions passes to your Agent two physicians must certify that you are incapable of making decisions for yourself. You do, however, have the option to waive the second physician requirement and require only one physician to declare you incapacitated.
The Healthcare Choices Directive permits you to make important decisions about health care you wish to receive or refuse if you have a terminal illness or are persistently unconscious. For example, you may indicate that you wish to refuse artificial means of supplying oxygen, water, or nutrition. Conversely, you might specifically indicate that you do wish to be given antibiotics and/or pain medication. By executing a Healthcare Choices Directive you are able to ensure that your end of life beliefs and wishes will be honored when the time comes.
Though these two advanced directives often go hand in hand, your own decisions as indicated in the Directive will guide the decision making. Your Agent cannot override any of the decisions you made in your Choices Directive.
If you have additional questions or concerns about advanced directives, or about estate planning in general, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.