Medical care: What happens if you’re incapacitated?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Estate Planning

An estate plan has the potential to extend far beyond detailing who will get what when you pass away. When crafting an estate plan, you’ll also want to consider what will happen if you become incapacitated. Having a plan for this unfortunate turn of events can help your loved ones to care for you if doing so ever becomes necessary.

Medical power of attorney and advance directives are the estate plan components you can set up to serve this purpose. These documents can determine how your medical care is managed when you can’t make decisions for yourself. By spelling out your wishes, you can more effectively protect your interests and potentially relieve your loved ones of unnecessary stress and confusion.

Know what medical power of attorney means

When you appoint someone as your medical power of attorney, you give them the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This person steps in when you can’t communicate or make choices due to illness or incapacity. They can consent to treatment plans, request tests and consult with your healthcare providers to ensure you get the care that aligns with your values and wishes.

Functionality of the advance directives

An advance directive is a legal document that specifies the kinds of medical treatment you would or wouldn’t want under certain circumstances. It’s a way to communicate your preferences for life-prolonging measures, resuscitation and other interventions. The document takes effect only if you can’t make or express your own decisions. While a medical power of attorney focuses on who will greenlight decisions on your behalf, an advance directive focuses on what those decisions should be.

A comprehensive approach

While both documents are independent, they’re most effective when they’re complementing each other. Your medical power of attorney agent should be given a copy of your advance directive to better ensure that your wishes are followed. Medical professionals can then consult these documents to provide care that aligns with your preferences.

There’s no good time to discuss these uncomfortable topics (and to act on them by drawing up relevant paperwork), but having these conversations sooner rather than later is essential. You’ll be proactively protecting your future by including medical power of attorney and advance directives in your estate plan. Remember, you can update these documents as your wishes or circumstances change and you can seek legal guidance at any time to make sure that they’re properly drawn up and will be enforceable if you should ever need them to be.