Although it is almost universally acknowledged that it is important to create an estate plan and regularly update it, it is remarkably common to avoid actually taking the time to do so. Perhaps the consideration of our own mortality is such an unpleasant thought we instinctively choose not to face it. However, the decisions we make now about the future can serve to better protect our wishes, our estate and make matters far less difficult for our loved ones. Most of us understand that a will and, in most instances, a trust are two documents to be executed in furtherance of these goals, but an experienced Fort Worth will lawyer can best able explain that health care directives are also part of a comprehensive estate plan that we should all have in place.
Medical Power of Attorney
Although health care directives may be known by different names in other states, Texas law refers to them as a Medical Powers of Attorney. In general, once properly executed, a Medical Power of Attorney allows an individual to name an agent to make health decisions on behalf of that individual if he or she becomes incompetent.
In most cases, a Medical Power of Attorney is created when the individual is competent and must be witnessed by two people. Under the law, at least one of these witnesses must not be a:
- Health care provider for the individual
In circumstances where the individual becomes incompetent prior to his or her execution of a Medical Power of Attorney, it may be appropriate to initiate a guardianship proceeding. Additionally, the law provides that if no Medical Power of Attorney has been executed and there has not been a guardianship proceeding to name a guardian, the appropriate medical decisions can be made by the individual’s physician with the consultation and cooperation of the closest relative. Typically, this is the spouse, an adult child of the individual, or a parent of the individual. Texas law permits a minor to create a Medical Power of Attorney.
Type of Health Care Decisions
Unless otherwise specifically stated in the power of attorney, the agent can make any decision the individual could have if he or she was competent. This means the agent can refuse, withdraw, or withhold specific medical procedures according to the individual’s desires. Importantly, this includes what are intended to be life-sustaining measures. State statutes specifically indicate certain types of procedures that the agent may not render a decision regarding:
- Voluntary mental health decisions
- Convulsive treatment
Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates
If you choose not to name an agent to make health care decision for you, you may alternatively execute what many call a “living will.” Although it may cause some confusion due to the word “will,” it is unlike a will or trust designed to transfer property upon one’s death. In this living will, you specify to as great an extent possible what types of treatment you want to receive and what precisely you do not want. The legal requirements for creation are very similar to the medical Power of Attorney, specifically regarding the nature of two witnesses, one of which is not related, a health care provider, employee or otherwise a potential heir.
Once you have chosen and properly executed the documents that you feel best protect your interests, it is important to keep the originals in a safe place. Additionally, it is important to make your wishes known to those who will be involved. Make copies and be certain your regularly treating physicians, your medical group and close relatives named in the documents are all informed. Lastly, it is important to review your documents every few years and more frequently if some major life event occurs.
Contact a Fort Worth Will Lawyer for Legal Advice
The planning and preparation you do now will provide dividends for you and your loved ones later. Don’t wait; call the Hurr Law Office P.C., a Fort Worth will lawyer, at 817-210-0150.