I've Signed My Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will: Now What?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

docsYou did the responsible thing. You hired a lawyer. You put in place a power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. You know who will be making decisions for you if you can’t communicate and you know who will speak to your doctor if you are unconscious. It seems as though you have done all the right things. You gave a copy of the power of attorney to the person you named. Is it time to sit back and relax?

Almost.

So many of us get hung up on the act of signing estate planning documents and fail to truly understand what is meant to be accomplished: open communication in advance of unforeseen circumstances. For a healthcare power of attorney and a living will, it is important both practically and personally to discuss your healthcare desires, in plain language, with your loved ones. Just have a chat. If you named your spouse as your agent, engage in a conversation outside of the context of the document that you just signed.

For example, ask your spouse the question, “What would you do if I were in a coma?” Answer the question or engage in a debate. Even if you and your spouse disagree on how you each would like to be treated, the discussion will be one that can be drawn upon in a situation where one of you must make a decision regarding the other’s health care needs. What better way to apply your authority as a power of attorney than to draw from experience, rather than simply based on what is laid out in a document? Of course, the document is of critical importance, but nothing can replace the back-and-forth and engagement of a conversation between two people who care for one another.

So take a few extra moments on the way home and talk about the things you don’t want to talk about. That way, if something happens, those documents may be of the best possible service to you and your family.

- Posted by Attorney David S. Banas

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