Healthcare Advance Directives
Estate planning is often centered around setting forth a plan for what will happen to someone’s assets after they die. However, one of the often overlooked but equally important aspects of estate planning involve developing a plan for what will happen in the event their health or capacity suddenly takes a turn for the worse. The Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC have more than 35 years of experience helping families create advance directives that will provide them with peace of mind knowing that they are prepared for whatever the future holds.What Are Advance Directives?
Advance directive documents allow you to clarify your wishes and designate decision-makers that can convey your desires to medical professionals in the event you are unable to do so. End-of-life care is a very personal decision. If you suddenly become ill or incapacitated and cannot communicate your wishes to your doctors, who will do so on your behalf? Certainly, your family members or close friends can be there to advocate on your behalf, but do they understand your wishes?
Having an advance directive in place not only ensures your wishes are honored but also removes some of the burdens from your loved ones during an especially difficult time. There are several types of advance directives available in Texas.Directive to Physicians or Living Will
Often referred to as a living will, advance directives to physicians clarify your wishes as they pertain to life-sustaining medical care or procedures when your condition is terminal or irreversible.Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney allows you to designate an agent or agents to make important medical decisions on your behalf. Medical powers of attorney only become effective once your physician certifies that you are unable to make your own treatment decisions. Thus, if your condition improves and you regain the ability to make your own treatment decisions, the agent loses the ability to make decisions on your behalf. This is unlike durable or financial powers of attorney since a financial POA can be effective immediately and without the need to declare the principal incapacitated.Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate
Advance directives to physicians and medical powers of attorney only apply when you are under the care of a physician. However, in the event of an emergency at home, you must first be transported to the hospital by emergency medical responders. An out-of-hospital do-not-resuscitate informs emergency responders of your desire not to receive life-saving treatment.Who Makes Decisions if You Do Not Have an Advance Directive?
If you need life-saving or life-sustaining medical treatment and do not have a valid advance directive, state law provides that various parties can make healthcare decisions on your behalf. The following individuals are the ones who can make decisions on your behalf, in order of priority:
- Your spouse;
- Your adult child (or a majority of your adult children who are reasonably accessible at the time);
- Your parents;
- Someone you identified to make decisions on your behalf immediately before becoming incapacitated; or
- Your nearest living family member.
While this ensures that there is someone able to make important decisions on your behalf, it also can result in disputes among family members. Thus, to reduce the chances of conflict and to lessen the burdens on your family members during an already difficult time, it is essential to have an advance directive that clearly outlines your intentions.Do You Need to Add Advance Directives to Your Texas Estate Plan?
If you do not yet have an estate plan or need to add advance care directives to an existing plan, the Houston estate planning and elder law attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, can help. For decades, we’ve helped countless families deal with some of the most challenging decisions they must face. We work closely with each of our clients to develop customized estate planning documents that will provide their families with peace of mind for years to come.