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THE LIVING WILL AND POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE

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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney for 20 years, I have often seen many clients gamble with their future by not having their estate planning documents completed. It’s interesting because these same individuals would never gamble with their money or with the lives of their family members or loved ones and yet they seem indifferent about the gamble they are taking with their own lives. In particular, most individuals seem indifferent about the fact that at some point in their life they may need help from someone else in making medical or health care decisions. Additionally, many individuals never believe that they will ever find themselves in a terminal condition and on life support.

The purpose of this article is to convince you that you should get your estate planning done that would include a living will and power of attorney for health care. The reason again for this is so that you are not gambling with your own life.

  1. Idaho’s Statutes

Idaho has specific statutes which deal with a living will and a power of attorney for health care. These statutes are found at Idaho Code 39-4501 et seq., which describe both the form and the function of this document. The statutes have changed over time, but the essence of the law set forth in these statues is the same. The statute requires that the living will, and the healthcare power of attorney be combined into one document so that all medical and healthcare providers in Idaho will be assured that they have all documents related to decisions and individuals who can make health care decisions in their possession.

Because of the complexity of these statutes, and the decisions that must be made in a person’s living will and in their health care power of attorney, we take time to go through these decisions and options with our clients to make sure they understand and that their decisions are made knowingly. In other words, we want our clients to understand what their options are so that they can make a decision that will help them the most. By accomplishing this, we are following the statutes in Idaho, and allowing our clients to stay in control of the decisions they make concerning their own health care.

  1. Power of Attorney for Health Care

The power of attorney for health care is a specific document designed to give you the ability to name someone else to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer do it for yourself. For example, if you had Alzheimer’s or some other injury or illness and you are no longer capable of understanding basic things about your own health care, your health care power of attorney would become effective. In your health care power of attorney you will have named someone who will have the ability to make decisions about your health care and medical treatments if you can no longer do it yourself.

We suggest that you name a primary choice. In addition to that we also suggest that you name other individuals who can step in if the first person you choose either cannot do it or refuses to do it. We also make sure that we have all the necessary legalities in the document to make it valid and enforceable based on current Idaho law.

Through your power of attorney for health care, the person you have chosen will be able to decide what doctors you see, what medicines you take, and what medical procedures you may receive. This person may also decide whether you need to be placed in an assisted living center. Essentially, this individual would make the same decisions for you that you would make for yourself if you were still capable of making those decisions.

  1. Living Will

Your living will is entirely different. This document is designed solely to give you the ability to provide specific instructions to your doctors and other healthcare providers about what to do and what not to do at the end of your life. Suppose for a moment that you have an injury or illness that has placed you in the hospital and that you are on life support machines. The doctors have diagnosed you with a terminal condition that they have said you are not going to recover from. In these circumstances your living will gives you the ability to leave specific instructions to your doctors. The choices you have are to instruct your doctors to keep you on every machine so that you will live as long as possible. Alternatively, you have the ability of instructing your doctors to turn the machines off and allow you to die a normal and natural death.

The important thing about the living will is that the end-of-life decision stays with you. If you do not have a valid living will, this decision then falls on the shoulders of your family and loved ones. In essence, they are required to decide whether to keep you on the life-support machines or to turn these machines off. It is a terrible decision for a family member to have to make. For this reason, we suggest to all our clients, but they keep this decision to themselves and that day set it forth in their living will so that their family will not be required to make this decision.

ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free 3o minute consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lane@racineolson.com. We are happy to answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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