When the term “estate planning” is used, most people think of having a will prepared. While a will is a fundamental aspect of estate planning (as it ultimately determines how assets held by a person will be distributed), other important estate planning issues also need to be considered, such as end-of-life care and care in the event of a significant medical emergency that results in incapacitation.
In Indiana, people may specify how they wish to be cared for in such circumstances by executing one or more advance directives. Advance directives are instructions concerning aspects such as a person’s wishes regarding life sustaining treatment in a terminal illness, and who should be empowered to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they suffer an incapacitating illness or injury and are unable to communicate their wishes.
Advance Directives Are Not Operative Unless a Person is Incapacitated and Cannot Speak for Themselves
Advance directives such as living wills, healthcare directives, and powers of attorney do not become operative unless and until a person cannot communicate his or her wishes concerning health care or other lifestyle matters, or unless a physician certifies that the person is unable to make decisions because of a severe psychological condition. If a person subsequently is able to communicate his or her wishes, the advance directive is no longer operative.
A Living Will
An Indiana Living Will (sometimes called an “Indiana living will directive”) specifies what course of medical treatment should be provided if a person is suffering from a terminal disease or condition and the person is unable to make his or her wishes known. Living wills often provide that only nourishment and medication for pain should be provided during the end stages of a terminal illness, and that other life-prolonging medical treatment should not be administered, but this does not have to be the case. A living will could provide very different terms; and in fact could specify that all life sustaining procedures should be administered.
My role as your attorney is to identify your wishes should such an incapacitating event occur so that you will receive the treatment you desire.
Healthcare Directives and Powers of Attorney
While many of us can contemplate an end-of-life condition where we cannot voice our opinion concerning medical care, few of us contemplate that we may suffer a catastrophic accident or disease that is incapacitating earlier in life. When such an event occurs, if we are no longer able to communicate our wishes concerning medical care, our finances, or our lifestyle matters, we need a trusted family member or friend to act on our behalf.
Indiana healthcare directives are a way of designating a person who will have the authority to make such decisions. Healthcare directives usually provide a designated person with the authority to make a wide variety of healthcare decisions on behalf of the person providing the healthcare directive.
Similarly, Powers of Attorney provide a designated person (called the “attorney-in-fact”) with the authority to act on our behalf concerning a variety of non-healthcare matters, usually those concerning finances, asset management, and lifestyle matters.
I Help Clients Prepare for the Full Range of their Estate Planning Needs
I invite you to call me to schedule an appointment.
Once I learn about your circumstances and wishes, I can help guide you through the process of documenting your wishes around healthcare and financial matters to ensure that your wishes are known in the event of an incapacitating illness or accident in which you are unable to voice your wishes.