Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will
Ask yourself which is more important legal documents, who will make health care decisions for you when you can’t or who gets your stuff (your assets) when you’re gone. If your answer is who gets your stuff, then you need a Will otherwise I think you will agree that everyone at age 18 needs a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will because they determine who will make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself. In some states like Ohio, they are two separate documents. In other states, like Michigan both of these are in one document. Why do you need them at age 18? Because in most states when you turn 18 you are an adult. When you are legally an adult, your parents can no longer make health care decisions for you even if you are living at home, still in high school, and/or still on their health insurance.
What do these important legal documents do for you?
These important legal documents tell the health care provider who is to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself. That is when you are incompetent/incapacitated. You could have had a serious head injury, a stroke, be in a coma, etc. For the elderly Alzheimer’s and dementia are common causes.
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care comes into effect when you are incompetent and when you do not have a terminal illness.
The Living Will comes into effect when you are incompetent and you do have a terminal illness.
Both documents (or sections) say what kinds of decisions your agent (the person who will make decisions for you) can make, in addition to giving them permission to talk to your healthcare providers and see your medical records. The more decision making power you give your agent the better the decisions will be based upon the circumstances at the time because you gave them greater authority and thus greater flexibility. It’s best to name your primary agent and at least 2 successor agents. That is if the first person can’t or won’t make the decisions; then the second and if the second person can’t or won’t; then the third. If you don’t have sufficient backup your family could be in the Probate court system for the rest of your life. While the court is our safety net most families prefer to maintain control without court supervision. It is always best to speak to an attorney, licensed in your state, when preparing any legal document. It is the attorney’s job to explain and counsel you on options that meet your objectives. Simply filling in a form generally does not get you the result you intend because what you think it says isn’t always the legal meaning.