While individuals often think about who would receive their assets when they die, they do not always think about the medical care they want if they cannot speak for themselves. This is a critical aspect in the Houston estate planning process, called an advanced health care directive. An advanced health care directive is unique to each individual, and it can often be confusing to know what should be included in such a directive. Below are common questions that Texans have about health care directives and how to implement one as part of their estate plan.
What is a Health Care Directive?
A health care directive allows an individual to express their values and desires related to end of life care. A person can adjust their health care directive as their situation changes because of new information or a change in their health. Research has shown that advance directives often make a difference: individuals who document their preferences are more likely to receive their preferred care at the end of their life than people who do not document their wishes.
What Do You Include in a Health Care Directive?
There are two main elements of a health care directive: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. A living will is a document that tells doctors how the person wants to be treated if they are dying or permanently incapacitated and cannot make decisions on their own accord. A durable power of attorney for health care names a health care proxy. This individual makes medical decisions when the person is unable to do so themselves and should be familiar with their values and wishes. A proxy can be included in addition to or instead of a living will. For those who are reluctant to put specific health decisions in writing—because of changing circumstances—a healthcare proxy may be the better option for them.
What Care Directives Are Included?
While the advance care planning decisions included in a health care directive are specific to each person, there are certain directives most plans have. These decisions include CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation); ventilator use; artificial nutrition (tube feeding) and artificial hydration (intravenous fluids); and comfort care.
There are benefits and drawbacks to the above care actions that individuals must contemplate. For instance, CPR may restore a person’s heartbeat if it stops or if there is a life-threatening abnormal rhythm; however, the force is quite strong and sometimes breaks a rib or causes a lung to collapse. Ventilators help people breathe when they do so cannot on their own, but often people using a breathing tube cannot speak without special help because exhaled air does not go beyond the vocal cords.
Because these are difficult decisions, individuals should contemplate the end of life care they want to receive with their family and estate planning attorney, who will help draft a health care directive.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one is interested in adding a health care directive to your Houston estate plan, contact the attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We have years of experience handling a wide array of estate plans and can help with your specific needs. Besides health care directives, we also handle estate planning matters like drafting wills, creating trusts, and helping with Medicaid planning. To speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys and to schedule a consultation, call us today at 713-333-8900.