Because emergency documents are prepared and intended to be used prospectively, it is crucial that each document reflect your intention, be properly signed and attested, and written in clear language that will be understood by the third party provider to whom it is presented for the purpose of inducing that third party provider to act in accordance with your intentions.
Authorizing someone to make health care related and medical decisions for you is an important decision. Most estate planners will provide their clients health care powers of attorneys and living wills when drafting a Will or a trust, but the importance of the decision is often lost in the tsunami of other decisions clients must make when creating an estate plan. Recognize the importance of including health care, medical emergency, and end of life planning into your overall plan to lead a purposeful life.
In my opinion, focusing on WHO will act is most important. HOW your Agent will act is also important, but except in unique circumstances, it more important to impart your personal philosophy of how you would act, rather than trying to master a list of different possibilities and making specific choices about each. I have a fanatical devotion about paying attention to the big picture borne from a belief that if you have developed an all-inclusive outlook, your Agent will make the decision that best suits your intentions.
A good plan is not about documents, but about philosophy and intentions. The documents should assure that the plan is implemented as intended.
All documents that delegate authority to another should include a specific provision allowing the Agent to act as the maker’s “personal representative” under the federal HIPAA rules.
Health care planning may include the following documents –
A Health Care Power of Attorney which appoints the person or persons to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. In addition to naming the person or persons to act, the document may indicate what actions are to be taken in specific circumstances. Focusing on specific circumstances may be useful if there is a great likelihood that the specific circumstance will occur, but otherwise, I believe it is better to focus on having a plan prescribes your philosophy of how decisions ought to be made.
In Arizona, a Medical Power of Attorney has additional requirements that consider civil liberties if the maker is to be confined as part of the treatment plan. Those precautions may be included in the health care power of attorney or a different document.
A Living Will does not appoint an Agent but rather declares what type of treatment you want in the event of your imminent death if you are in a persistent or permanent vegetative state, or you have a terminal illness, or incurable disease. Most often the living will declares that you do not want to artificially prolong your life or to receive life sustaining treatment, beyond comfort care, that serves only to prolong the moment of your death. Whether one of those conditions exists is made as you indicate, usually by one or two physicians that have examined you.
Courtesy of a colleague, I have collected living wills that have been used by clients of different religious persuasions which incorporate tenets of their faith into the decision making process.
A Living Will is not to be confused with a “do not resuscitate” or a prehospital DNR designation which in Arizona must be reviewed with and signed by your physician, be on orange paper, in letter or wallet size and plainly visible to emergency medical personnel. With the proper form, you may also wear a bracelet that meets the requirements of ARS §36-3251.
Arizona has statutory forms for each of these documents and you can find the forms on the Attorney General’s website along with a 10 minute video that explains their use. The Arizona Secretary of State provides a registry where you can maintain your current documents to be retrieved when needed. [The information in this paragraph is provided as a public service and should not be considered legal advice nor imply that I endorse substituting generic internet documents in place of sound legal advice and custom prepared documents tailored to your individual needs]
And finally, Arizona residents may designate another person as the temporary guardian for their minor children or wards under a guardianship for up to 6 months at a time.
The “magic” of any of these important documents is that they accurately what you want, who you want to act for you if you are unable to act for yourself, and be written in plain enough language that the third party provider will understand what it is and act in accordance with your intentions.
I would be honored to have the opportunity to discuss your emergency planning intentions and your estate planning needs. Please call and make an appointment to see me.