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Preparing medical directives is a critical component of the estate planning process. As we age, we inevitably face the possibility that we may become unable to care for ourselves and make our own decisions about medical care. Medical directives allow us to protect ourselves and take the burden off of our loved ones by making advance decisions and prescribing courses of action under varying medical circumstances.
Of course, aging is not the only risk factor for incapacity. Accidents can cause debilitating injuries and change individuals’ and families’ lives in the blink of an eye. While no one plans to suffer catastrophic injuries in a traumatic accident, accidents happen, and everyone should have a plan in place to ensure that their loved ones are not left to make difficult decisions under uncertain circumstances on their behalf.
In New Jersey, medical directives fall into two categories: (i) “proxy directives” or “powers of attorney for healthcare,” and (ii) “instruction directives” or “living wills.” With a proxy directive, you provide directions to a “healthcare representative,” who takes on the responsibility to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become physically or mentally incapable of making these decisions on your own.
There are several considerations that go into preparing a proxy directive, each of which requires thoughtful consideration in light of your personal beliefs, desires and family circumstances. For example:
While there is a proxy directive form available from the New Jersey Department of Health, we strongly recommend that you work with your estate planning attorney to prepare your medical directive. Ambiguities in directive language and questions of enforceability can lead to contentious disputes among family members, and physicians may be reluctant to rely on proxy directives that have not been prepared in clear compliance with the necessary standards. The purpose of preparing a medical directive is to avoid uncertainty – for your own benefit and for the benefit of your loved ones – and an experienced estate planning lawyer will be able to help ensure that your directive serves its intended purpose. You will want to make sure that your proxy directive is consistent with your instruction directive and other estate planning documents as well.
If you would like more information about the considerations involved in preparing a medical directive, we encourage you schedule a free consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. To speak with one of our estate planning attorneys in confidence, please call 1-877-435-6371 or request an appointment online today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.