When you visit an attorney to make an estate plan and sign your will, they will also suggest you make a living will, also known as a healthcare directive, and sign a healthcare power of attorney. These are the legal documents which guide doctors and hospitals when making medical and end-of-life decisions when you aren’t able to do so. Since these documents only concern your life, they have little application once you die.
The advantage of having a living will is that these health decisions are already made, saving your family stress or even a legal battle when they should be focused on your health. It also gives your family guidance as to what you’re thinking and whether you want their focus to be on fighting for your life or loving you and letting you go peacefully. These are decisions that may change as you age and should be revisited periodically.
Minnesota has a standard form you can use that covers health directives including palliative care (what’s done to decrease your pain) and extraordinary measures (how much effort they go to in order to save your life). You can also use your own document so long as it is in writing and meets the appropriate state requirements. You want to ensure your living will is properly witnessed and notarized and your attorney will ensure that you’re in the right state of mind to make these decisions.
As long as you’re able to clearly communicate, even if you’re in pain, doctors will continue to rely on your input rather than your living will’s directives. They’ll only turn to the physician’s directive when you are no longer able to respond to questions and make decisions. The living will gives guidance, but with modern medicine, there are many different ways to apply your directives, so if possible, your doctors will still look to your family or your appointed agent to help with the details of these decisions.
Along with your living will comes the healthcare power of attorney (also called a durable power of attorney). This document appoints a specific person to carry out your end-of-life decisions and handle the details of medical choices. Your appointed agent will also be able to make decisions after your death about autopsies and organ donation. Once the medical decisions are made, however, the authority granted by the healthcare power of attorney is exhausted.
If you’re looking to plan or update your estate, contact Virtus Law Firm at 612.888.1000 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will take care of the entire package of paperwork involved in end-of-life care and probate. These decisions are never fun, but when handled in advance, they can save your family significant stress and grief and help them focus on doing what’s best for you.