Your medical directives need to be part of your estate plan. Sometimes called advance medical directives, this could include several documents, mainly as follows:
This term may encompass a number of different documents, including a health care proxy, a durable power of attorney for health care, a living will, and medical instructions. The exact document or documents will depend on your state’s laws and the choices you make.
- Health Care Power of Attorney. If you are going to choose just one medical directive, this is the one to have. This designates someone to make health care decisions if you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself. It can also contain directions for the type of care you would like to receive, and whether you would want life prolonging measures. North Carolina has its own form for a Health Care Power of Attorney. Other forms also are recognized, but you’ll find health care providers are most likely to follow a document that seems familiar and uses terms sanctioned by the North Carolina law. You should name more than one Health Care Agent, in case your primary agent dies or is unavailable to act for you when needed.
- Living Will. A Living Will gives instructions to your health care provider about the care you would want if you are terminally ill or in a severe coma or have extreme dementia. Most people give instructions to discontinue or withhold life prolonging care in that situation, but to provide comfort care. However if you wish you could request that care be continued, or to withhold pain medications.
- HIPAA Release. A HIPAA Release (also often called a Medical Privacy Release) gives named people the ability to talk with and receive health care information from your medical providers. HIPAA laws provide for medical privacy but the law can prevent families from getting information quickly in an emergency, without the right type of privacy releases.
There are other types of medical documents too, which are in the form of doctor’s orders. That includes a “Do Not Resuscitate Order” (DNR) and a “Medical Order for Standing Treatment” (MOST) form. Both of these documents are signed by your doctor, and so can’t prepare them yourself even with the help of your lawyer.