Your estate plan may not protect you as well as you think it will. If you don’t include all of the right documents and keep everything accurate and up-to-date, issues may eventually arise that your estate plan could address but does not.
Far too many people only think about their deaths when putting together their estate plans. They don’t include advance directives to protect themselves if there is some kind of extreme medical situation. In New York, the state allows four different kinds of advance directives, each of which offers unique benefits for someone planning for an uncertain future.
Whether you just had to make hard decisions on behalf of your parents or want to update your estate plan because you are about to retire, it may be time to add health care directives to the documents you already have.
A health care proxy
Creating a health care proxy is one of the most important ways of protecting yourself when you need medical care in the future. This document allows you to name someone that you trust to serve as your health care agent.
Some people name their children or younger siblings. Others name friends that they trust to handle their health care decisions when they cannot speak for themselves.
A living will
Naming someone to make decisions for you is an important step, but you also want to ensure that they make decisions that reflect your preferences and values. A living will is a document that includes instructions about your health care preferences and wishes. You can combine this document with the health care proxy to ensure that you get the care you would prefer.
Specific care orders
The two remaining advance directives used in New York both relate to specific kinds of medical care. A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is a tool used by those who are at an advanced age or coping with a chronic illness.
A DNR orders medical staff to not engage in extensive interventions to save your life in an emergency. If your heart stops and you have a DNR order on record, no one at the hospital will attempt to perform CPR.
On the other hand, you can fill out a document explaining your preferences about different kinds of life-saving treatment. Perhaps you would accept some forms of resuscitation and care but would prefer not to be on life support for more than a few weeks. These documents provide authoritative proof of your preferences for specific medical treatments.
Adding advance directives to your estate plan guarantees a certain standard of care and gives you peace of mind about the future.