Health Care Resolutions 2013: Protect Your Family

Elder Law
legal health

This New Year, each of us will likely make resolutions about bettering ourselves and our situations. As we do so, let’s not forget a couple of simple estate planning documents that can make the lives of our loved ones a little easier emotionally and financially.

Specifically, each and every one of us aged 18 years or older can and should sign a Health Care Proxy and an Advance Directive, if we haven’t already done so. “Why?” you, especially you college students, may ask. Well, because even the healthiest of us can find ourselves unexpectedly injured or stricken by serious illness.

For example, a hypothetical college student – let’s call her, “Jane” – is a passenger in a terrible auto accident. As a result, Jane lies in a hospital bed in a near-unconscious state. She cannot communicate medical decisions to her treating doctors. Without planning, Jane’s doctors might, but are not required to, abide by medical decisions communicated by Jane’s parents or even give Jane’s parents information about her because of HIPAA laws. However, if Jane has a Health Care Proxy, the person she has named – parents, an aunt, or even an older sibling whom Jane trusts – can communicate such medical decisions on her behalf, without question.

Should Jane’s injuries cause her to lapse into a persistent vegetative state, treating doctors may or may not abide by Jane’s parents’ instructions to withdraw extraordinary life extending measures. This is so even if Jane often verbally expressed to her parents in the past her strong opposition to such life-prolonging measures. On the other hand, if Jane has a proper Advance Directive, her doctors are able to honor Jane’s wishes about extraordinary measures without fear of negative consequences. Her family is spared great emotional turmoil and, perhaps, legal action to resolve the dispute.

Jane may feel strongly that some of her money, upon her death, should be transferred to a favorite relative, or given to her former middle school to fund a scholarship. If Jane passes away, her wishes will have a much better chance of coming true if she has previously created a Will that expresses her wishes in writing.

For most, planning is never fun, and none of us wants to contemplate for a moment tragedies befalling us or our children. But if we plan for, and therefore thwart, such unwelcome possibilities, we are doing ourselves and our loved ones a great favor from an emotional perspective. Health Care Proxies, Advance Directives, and Wills also make sense financially, because they provide great value, especially when combined together in a reasonably priced estate planning package. Take the time to make these health care resolutions. If we take these small steps, we can feel much more confident about this New Year being our healthiest and wealthiest yet.

Contact our office to schedule a free consultation. 856-227-7888 or email [email protected]. We have locations in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties, and are happy to discuss your matter either by phone or at our Marlton, Blackwood, or Woodbury, NJ  law offices.

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