Not only should you consider a Living Will Declaration, you should also consider a Health Care Power of Attorney. Should you become too sick or incapacitated to make your own decisions regarding your health and medical care, these two legal instruments will give you a voice when you no longer have one.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has imposed privacy restrictions on health and medical information in order to protect and safeguard patient confidentiality. While this is essential, it can make it difficult for a loved one to get crucial medical assistance. A Living Will and Health Care Power of attorney will enable your loved one to help you with medical decisions when you are no longer able to make them yourself. These instruments also ensure that your wishes regarding your treatment and end of life choices are honored.

A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document you sign, authorizing an individual, known as an attorney-in-fact, appointed by you to make all health care decisions when your doctor determines that you are unable to do so for yourself. With a Health Care Power of Attorney would enable your attorney-in-fact to gain access to your medical records. In addition, this document may also give your attorney-in-fact the right to refuse hydration and nutrition if you are terminal or permanently unconscious.

A Living Will Declaration is a document stating your wishes regarding health care administered to you once you become terminal or in a vegetative or permanently unconscious state. This would involve the right to refuse nutrition and hydration and instituting a “do not resuscitate” order. A Living Will is only effective when you are completely incapacitated and if two doctors agree that your condition is terminal or you are permanently unconscious. In addition, the doctors must notify and get permission to withhold nutrition and hydration from the persons you wish to be notified in the event this occurs.

You will also need to sign a Living Will declaration if you wish to donate organs upon your death.

An estate planning lawyer can assist you with every aspect of this area of planning how your estate is handled upon your death.