Using a living will and health care proxy to dictate medical care

Missouri residents who are in need of an estate plan may be interested in two documents that can be very valuable should they become too sick to make their own medical decisions. These documents are a very important part of comprehensive estate planning.

When a medical situation arises and a person who needs treatment cannot communicate, the decisions made can be crucial. As part of the estate planning process, two types of documents can be created that govern these medical care decisions when a person is incapacitated. Living wills dictate whether or not treatment will be given when the maker becomes terminally ill. The decisions covered may include whether to give intravenous food or water, treatment with heart-lung machines or other life-sustaining treatment. These decisions are made when not giving these treatments would result in death, but using them may prolong the person’s life for a period of time. These documents do not prevent the use of pain medication to ease any pain during this time.

A health care proxy grants the authority to make health care decisions when the person is incapacitated. This can also come into play when a person is not in the proper mental state to make these decisions about such care. The document generally names one person, but will contain successors in case the original proxy is not available or cannot perform the duties.

An attorney may be able to help a client determine the documents necessary for comprehensive estate planning. These can include wills, trusts and other documents. When properly prepared, they may be able to help minimize taxes and avoid any later will litigation or probate issues.

Source: American Bar Association, “Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives“, December 15, 2014

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