Estate planning, including establishing advance directives, may help people prepare and protect themselves in case they become debilitated.When people in Colorado think of estate planning, creating a will that specifies how to distribute their assets upon their passing is typically what comes to mind. However, there is much more to this process, including drawing up advance directives. These legal documents may provide people a level of protection in the event they become unable to make decisions, speak and care for themselves.
For estate planning purposes, there are three types of advance directives – living wills, medical durable powers of attorney and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation directives. Understanding these legal documents and their purposes may help people plan for the inevitable or unexpected.
Sometimes referred to as medical directives, living wills specify people’s wishes in the event they suffer a life-threatening injury or illness. In such situations, medical professionals may use treatments, including breathing machines, dialysis, tube feeding, and resuscitation if their hearts or breathing stop. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, people may dictate whether they want to receive such treatments, and whether or not they wish to donate their organs or tissues. It is important to keep in mind, however, that living wills only go into effect if people’s conditions or diseases are terminal.
Medical durable powers of attorney
For any number of reasons, even the healthiest people may become physically or mentally incapacitated. Medical durable powers of attorney are legal documents that appoint personal representatives to make health care related decisions on people’s behalf should they be unable to do so themselves. The Colorado Hospital Association points out that medical durable powers of attorney grant the specified agents the authority to obtain and review copies of people’s medical records, to consult with their medical providers, and to make decisions about their health care treatment and placement.
When people’s hearts stop beating or they cease breathing, there are a number of resuscitation methods that may be used to attempt to revive them. This includes administering special drugs, employing procedures or devices, and using cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR. Unless they have specified otherwise, health care professionals assume that patients consent to such treatments.
Sometimes, people may not feel comfortable receiving CPR, or for other reasons do not want to have this resuscitation technique performed on them. A CPR directive allows them to express this desire. Having this document in place will help ensure that health care professionals do not use revival methods, including chest compressions.
Preparing for the unexpected
Ensuring they are cared for and their wishes will be followed if they cannot speak for themselves is just as important for people in Colorado as creating a plan for handling their affairs after their deaths. Even young and healthy adults may benefit from discussing their plans for debilitating illnesses or injuries, or other life-threating events, with a legal professional. A lawyer may explain the options and their benefits, as well as help them to draw up and file the appropriate legal documents.