DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
The durable power of attorney allows the person you select to be able to act for you in legal and financial matters. Family members do not automatically have the authority to act for you when you become incapacitated. Having joint title to an account may allow your spouse access to the account, but their ability to control the account will be limited without a Power of Attorney.
When electing an individual to be your Power of Attorney you should consider whether you want this person to have this power immediately or only when you become incapacitated. Additionally you should consider who a good backup person would be to your first choice. The backup will have no power until your first choice becomes unable to perform their duties.
HEALTH CARE REPRESENTATIVE
Only 38% of Americans have an Appointed Healthcare Representative. An appointment of a healthcare representative, also known as a healthcare power of attorney, gives the person you designate the power to consent to your healthcare if you should become incapacitated.
Under Indiana law, your family can consent for your care when you are incapacitated, but there is no hierarchy of who get to make those decisions, and if your family cannot agree on the best course of action the doctors will have no idea who to listen to. An appointment of a healthcare representative can simplify your care. By electing one person to make these types of decisions, the doctor does not have to contend with everyone who cares about you trying to interject their opinion on what you would want or need. The appointment of healthcare representative makes one person the decision maker, and that one person is the only person your doctor has to consult.
If you have an appointment of a healthcare representative it is important for you to make sure the person you elect is the person you would want to make these decisions for you should you become incapacitated. Situations change and your opinion of people in your life changes as well. If the person you have elected in your appointment of a healthcare representative passes away, moves to the other side of the world, or just becomes someone you do not like anymore, you should probably think about changing your appointment of a healthcare representative.
Your appointment of a healthcare representative should be something you consider on a regular basis to ensure you have the right person selected for the job. It is also important for your family to know who has this power so that that person can be notified if anything were to happen to you. Discussing these issues with your attorney is an important step in creating and assigning these powers, and your appointment of a healthcare representative should be considered in conjunction with your living will.
Only 41% of Americans have living wills. A living will is a statement of your wishes that a medical provider should follow if you become injured or ill and cannot tell them what your wishes are. Whether you would want a doctor to do everything they can to help you, or you do not want to be kept on life support if you have no chance to be revived, it is important for you to have a living will to tell anyone involved in those decisions what you want.
Although, there is no guarantee that your living will will be followed even if you do have one, if you do not have one there may be no way to tell the doctor what you would want. If your wishes are not known to the hospital or your family and you become incapacitated, evidence of your wishes proven by a living will will be important. If your family does not agree with your wishes they may not mention to your care providers that you always said you wanted your care to be handled in a certain way. Some hospitals even require that you register your living will with them before you become a patient to ensure your wishes are followed.
Regardless of how you feel about being on life support or how far you would want your doctor to go in trying to save your life, it is important for your wishes to be well known and documented in a living will. Just talking to your family is not always enough to convince a court of what you would want if you become incapacitated, and arguments over what a family member truly would want can tear apart those that are left behind.
A living will can allow you to tell your family and doctor how you want to be treated in certain circumstances. However, a living will cannot cover every possible event and be explicit about every possible treatment you may require. It is important for you to have a durable power of attorney in conjunction with your living will to cover all possible situations and to ensure your wishes are followed if your become incapacitated. Consulting a qualified attorney can help you understand how living wills work under Indiana law and ensure that your best interests are being protected.
If you are seeking legal advice about advanced directives, please call us at 317-708-9410 to schedule a confidential consultation, or email us at [email protected]