Why most adults need living wills and health care proxies

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | Estate Planning |

New York estate plans can include a variety of different documents. People often start with testamentary documents such as wills and then supplement those basic documents with additional paperwork.

Powers of attorney and trusts are popular additions to basic estate plans. New York testators may also want to draft advance medical directives. These crucial documents extend protection to people during times of medical vulnerability. Many people add healthcare proxies and living wills to their estate plans. Those living documents can theoretically be among the most important inclusions in a comprehensive estate plan.

Privacy laws leave people vulnerable

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) restricts access to medical information. While medical privacy is a good thing, many people take for granted that their close family members could talk to doctors about their condition in an emergency and make choices on their behalf.

With the exception of a spouse, that is generally not the case. A young adult at college cannot rely on their parents to make choices for them in an emergency unless they have already designated a parent as their health care agent.

Someone who recently divorced might need to name a sibling or a friend who they trust to follow their wishes. Without a healthcare proxy, people typically only receive the care considered standard in a particular area of medicine or at a specific facility.

Every person has different medical preferences

A living will give someone an opportunity to educate others about their medical preferences. Not everyone has the same opinions about pain management or life support. Even those who have talked about their wishes with family members can benefit from drafting living wills. After all, family members may struggle to recall the details of a conversation years after discussing someone’s preferences.

Additionally, the stress that arises when a close family member has a medical emergency can interfere with memory recall. By providing very clear instructions about personal preferences and what to consider when making medical decisions, people can assist those guiding their treatment and ensure that the care they receive aligns with their personal values.

Adding appropriate advance medical directives to a New York estate plan can give someone protection if they ever become unable to speak on their own behalf. Living wills and health care proxies can be valuable for anyone over the age of 18.