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The Importance of a Power of Attorney, Living Will Or Healthcare Surrogate

I have been in healthcare for 33 years and my knowledge is wealth.

A Living Will Is Not The Same Things As A Last Will And Testament

I have worked in healthcare for over 35 years. Everyone should have a living will to make their last wishes known. I have witnessed arguments from family members outside of the ICU because one person wants them taken off the ventilator and the other doesn't. It's not a pretty sight and so disrespectful to the patient.

There are many reasons to make a living will: to give guidance to your doctors and health care surrogates, provide clarity and closure to your loved ones, prevent conflict or disagreements among family members, and limit the emotional burden on your closest people at the time of your death. Most important is that you remain the captain of your own ship, with the authority to dictate how you want to live and die. Considering that the majority of dying people are unconscious, in distress, or otherwise not able to speak, the living will serves as your voice when you may not have one. (AARP Legal)

Making that decision is hard especially if it is a parent or sibling. A living will is put in place so that your last wishes are known. Only 40% of Americans have a living will.

A living will does not have to be made fancy by an attorney it just has to be a notarized document stating your last wishes. You should always give a copy to your doctor and your family members especially the person you choose to make as your healthcare surrogate.

If you don't want life saving measures taken, you can just be made comfortable until you pass away. It's your choice and your decision.

Last Will and Testament

We all remember the scene of Mommy Dearest when the children attend the reading of the will and get nothing. Of course this is in the movies but it can happen in real life.

A last will and testament is a legal document that communicates a person's final wishes pertaining to assets and dependents. A person's last will and testament outlines what to do with possessions, whether the deceased will leave them to another person, a group or donate them to charity, and what happens to other things that they are responsible for, such as custody of dependents and management of accounts and financial interests. (Investopedia)

The importance of a will is to make sure that all your assets are divided equally among family members or children. If you have underaged children and you want a family member to care for them if something happens then this would be in your will.

So many people do not have wills and it can be a big cat fight between people when you die. I am sure you would not want this to happen after you are gone especially if you have a child or other family members that you don't want to give anything.

It will save the argument after you're gone.


These Things Happen

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Healthcare Surrogate

What is the difference between a Designation of Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will?

A Designation of Health Care Surrogate is a document that allows you to name an agent to make medical treatment decisions for you in accordance with your wishes if you are not able to do so yourself.

A Living Will is a document that allows you to address what kind of medical treatment you would like to receive if you ever face a terminal or irreversible medical condition. It is often referred to as the document where you tell the doctors to “pull the plug.” Most people request that all treatments other than those needed to keep them comfortable be discontinued or withheld so they can be allowed to die as gently as possible (Sims Law)

You may only want to be made comfortable or have music playing or even be surrounded by family members as you pass on. Accepting someone's wishes is being selfless. Holding on to someone who is brain dead is being selfish and I am sure no one wants to live like that. This is why it is so important to make your last wishes known that way no one has to argue. Make sure you give your doctor a copy and always take it with you if you are admitted to the hospital so it takes the guess work out of your care.

It will also make the decision of burial versus cremation. My mother had this big elaborate funeral planned but when she passed away there was only enough money to have her cremated. I am sure we made the decision that she would have chosen if she knew it would have caused financial problems.

It sounds confusing but it really isn't.

Power Of Attorney

People always get the healthcare surrogate and power of attorney mixed up. A power of attorney gives your representative permission to handle all your business transactions even before you die.

Trust is a key factor when choosing an agent for your power of attorney. Whether the agent selected is a friend, relative, organization, or attorney, you need someone who will look out for your best interests, respect your wishes, and won't abuse the powers granted to him or her.

It is important for an agent to keep accurate records of all transactions done on your behalf and to provide you with periodic updates to keep you informed. If you are unable to review updates yourself, direct your agent to give an account to a third party.

The one thing people leave out of a power of attorney is the POA can receive your medial records if needed. That should be written in the POA its self. If it isn't and you need their medical records you cannot access them.


The Most Important Things To Know Legally When You Have To Make Decisions

Working in medical records I come across these scenarios all the time. A child wants their parents records but are not listed on the death certificate as the next of kin. It might be a step mother so legally she is the only one who can get your dad's medical records unless you can provide a court order stating that you are the executive of your fathers estate or have an affidavit of kinship notarized.

People think just because they are the children or unmarried partner, that they should be able to have access to the records of that patients. That is farther from the truth.

I have had to calm down crying children who want their father or mothers medical records and point them in the direction of how they can obtain them. This is why it is so important to get your legal papers in order so that no one has to go through this when you die.

Be fair to your family. You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars through an attorney to get these papers completed. There are many templates on the internet that you can use to make them up yourself and have them notarized.

We never know when our time will come. You owe it to your family to have your house in order, so that when you pass away it will be very simple for them to do what you wanted.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Cheryl A Whitsett

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