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Health Care Proxy, not a Living Will.

A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that authorizes someone you appoint to make medical and health care decisions for you, if you are unable to. These include end of life decisions. The idea behind a Health Care Proxy is that someone makes the decisions you would have made, had you been able.

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Retro image of lawyer signing important legal document on black desk. Over black background.Therefore, it’s critical that your health care agent clearly understands your wishes concerning your medical and health care, and the circumstances in which you may choose not to have your life sustained.

Health Care Proxies are valuable for another important reason. They prevent and help resolve disputes within families. The health care agent has sole discretion in making decisions, and is operating based on your philosophy about medical choices. Legally, family members who disagree will find it extremely difficult to interfere.

The Family Health Care Decisions Act, passed March 2010, gives family members, and others deemed in close relationship to you, the right to make medical and life-sustaining decisions on your behalf, if you become mentally incapacitated. The problem is that it’s difficult to determine how it will be interpreted and applied, especially in a crisis situation. The legislation contains a number of ambiguities, and it also permits others to object, which can lead to delays and litigation.

A Living Will is another vehicle for having your wishes carried out, but can be problematic. With a Living Will, you spell out your instructions in writing. The difficulty is in its interpretation. Common phraseology such as “if there is little hope of recovery, I would not want heroic measures to be taken to preserve my life,” may mean different things to different family members.

Where one sees a hopeless situation, another believes there’s a chance of recovery. Heroic to one, is ordinary to another. Consequently, there is simply no reliable way of writing a Living Will that covers all possible medical contingencies and viewpoints.

For those who are uncomfortable with a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will is attractive because it gives the illusion of control. In fact, a Living Will can create opportunities for conflict, and could lead to a lawsuit. We don’t recommend it.

Instead, pick someone you trust and feel will be committed to making the decisions you would make. No document can replace the informed judgment of an intelligent, compassionate person.

25 Strategies to Prevent Financial Ruin from Long-Term Health Care Costs

  1. You can qualify for Medicaid (even if you don’t think so)
  2. The “Wait and See” Approach can Result in Ruinous Health Care Expenses.
  3. Plan for Home Care and Nursing Home Facility Care while You Still Can.
  4. What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
  5. It’s NOT too Late for Effective Medicaid Planning (even if you think it is)
  6. Why Hire an Elder Law Attorney?
  7. Don’t Prepare Your Own Medicaid Application
  8. Trusts Can Protect Your Home and Your Money!
  9. Special Trusts for Specific Purposes
  10. Protecting Co-op Apartments Require Special Handling
  11. Evaluate Your 401k or IRA Carefully when Planning for Medicaid
  12. Why Take the Lump Sum Option on Your Pension or Retirement Account?
  13. Choose Your Trustee Wisely
  14. Private Annuities can Help Protect Your Assets
  15. Caregiver Agreements Help Achieve Medicaid Eligibility
  16. Keep Your Medicare Insurance
  17. The Durable Power of Attorney
  18. Elder Law and Estate Planning
  19. The Health Care Proxy vs. the Living Will
  20. How to Choose an Elder Law Firm
  21. Streamline Your Financial Affairs and Record Keeping
  22. New York State is More Generous than Other States
  23. Your Attorney can Help Find the Best Care for You
  24. Long-Term Care Insurance Won’t Necessarily Solve the Problem
  25. Compassionate Elder Law Planning Focuses on Your Future Quality-of-Life!
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