Because Nobody Gets Out Alive
The importance of health care proxies
“Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case.”
–William Saroyan, 1983
Funny how many, if not most, of us walk around with that same notion in our heads. Understandable. After all, getting in touch with our own mortality is not an easy thing to do. But, one thing I can tell you with a rather high degree of certainty: When it comes to life, nobody gets out alive!
That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you have your core estate planning documents–a simple will, durable power of attorney, and health care proxy–in place for when (not if!) something happens to you. When these documents are not in place, it can wreak havoc on the lives of loved ones who have to manage your affairs while you are incapacitated or settle your estate should you die intestate.
Case in point. A couple of months ago, we executed an estate plan for a client whose friend, let’s call her Emma, had collapsed suddenly with no documents in place. While Emma was lying unresponsive in a hospital bed in Boston, her family members were scrambling to figure out what to do and who could make medical decisions on her behalf. An unenviable position for Emma’s family members indeed. Not so great for Emma either.
Which is why I want to suggest right now, that at a bare minimum, you make sure you have a health care proxy in place. A health care proxy is a document that allows another person whom you designate to make decisions about your health care if you should become incapacitated. This trusted individual, called an “agent,” must make decisions that are consistent with any instructions you have shared as well as your religious or moral beliefs. If that information is not available, your agent would use his or her best judgment to make sure you received medical care that was in your best interest.
Health care proxies differ from living wills, documents that describe the kinds of medical treatment you would like to receive if you are unable to communicate or make these decisions in real time. Living wills are not binding in Massachusetts, but often provide valuable guidance to health care professionals.
Under Massachusetts’ law, if you are at least 18 years old and competent, you can have a health care proxy. It’s a simple document to prepare. Attorneys at Levine-Piro Law are here to assist you. Please contact us at 978-637-2048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like to discuss a health care proxy and any of your other estate planning needs.
Authored by Attorney Carolyn A. Romano