Living Will and Power of Attorney
Making Your Health Care Wishes Clear
In 2011, Medicare spent approximately $170 billion on patients’ last six months of life. Decisions about end-of-life care frequently pit astonishing improvements in medical technology against concerns about quality of life. While it may be possible to survive longer on life support, the question becomes whether you really wish to spend your last weeks breathing with the aid of a ventilator. Having a New Jersey estate planning lawyer assist you in putting your health care wishes into writing can help ensure that you get precisely the type of medical treatment you want.
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What Are Advance Directives?
The broad legal term for a document that allows you to specify the types of end-of-life care you want is “advance directive.” Every state has its own laws regulating the scope and breadth of advance directives. While some states require them to be written documents, other states recognize oral advance directives. New Jersey recognizes the Five Wishes document that allows you to address the personal and spiritual aspects of end-of-life care as well as the medical and legal aspects.
In rare instances, courts may be called upon to decide the validity of an advance directive. This can happen if a third party challenges your mental capacity for making decisions at the time the advance directive was first created or if you didn’t meet New Jersey’s specific requirements for creating the directive.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will consists of directives for medical personnel to follow. It’s intended to serve as a reference should the person who drafted the document become so incapacitated that he or she is unable to communicate with health care providers. Living wills typically contain information that pertains to the use of life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and interventions such as tube feeding. New Jersey physicians who are unwilling to carry out the terms of a living will are legally required to transfer the patient to the care of another physician.
In New Jersey, a living will is typically a written document that’s signed in the presence of two witnesses. Alternatively, a New Jersey living will may be signed in the presence of a notary public or an attorney. You must be 18 years of age and of sound mind in order to draft a living will. An experienced Middlesex County estate planning attorney will be able to answer any questions you may have about living wills and advise you on drafting your own.
What Are Powers of Attorney for Health Care?
Living wills can be ambiguous, and this is why many individuals have also elected to choose a trusted friend or family member to act as their proxy when medical decisions need to be made. They do this by granting that person a durable power of attorney for health care. The person bestowing the power is known as the principal or grantor, and the person receiving it is called the agent. A durable power of attorney gives another person the right to make certain decisions on your behalf. In this context, the word “durable” refers to the fact that the designated person is empowered to act when the principal is incapacitated.
A durable power of attorney for health care will permit another person to act as your surrogate and refuse medical treatment on your behalf. That refusal will carry the same weight as if you yourself had refused the treatment. A New Jersey probate lawyer with experience in elder law can advise you on the Garden State’s specific requirements for establishing a durable power of attorney.
Can You Change an Advance Directive?
You can change an advance directive at any time. You can also revoke it. Obviously, you must do so in a manner that effectively communicates your new wishes to prospective health care providers. Enlisting the assistance of a Middlesex County probate lawyer with experience drafting advance directives is an effective way to make sure your changes are executed properly.
Determining what medical care is appropriate during the last stages of life can be difficult. Advance directives act to reduce ambiguity and provide specific direction. If you wish to set one up, the Alguram Law Group is prepared to assist you by providing the services of a New Jersey estate planning lawyer and elder law attorney who is experienced with these documents. Call Jason Alguram in Milltown, NJ today at (732) 351-2121 to schedule an appointment.