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In 2020 when it appeared that the pandemic was ramping up, instead of dying out, many Americans got wise to the need for a Healthcare Directive. With so many dying from the coronavirus, it became apparent that preparing for death or incapacity was not just a concern for the elderly.

So what is the Healthcare Directive? First and foremost, it is one of the important documents you should include in your estate plan. It is also one of the relatively easy things you should do for yourself. It is an act of genuine self-love.  

What Is a Healthcare Directive?

It is a legal instrument where you designate someone (an agent) to act on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. The Healthcare Directive authorizes your agent to make healthcare related decisions on your behalf when your capacity is diminished or you are too ill to make such decisions on your own behalf. Not all such documents are created equal, because not all lawyers draft documents in the same way. Then if you don’t even have a lawyer preparing your documents, it is more likely an important component of the Healthcare Directive will be omitted.

Why is it important to have a valid Healthcare Directive now?

As of January 4, 2023, the current 7-day average of weekly new Covid cases was 67,243. That was an increase of 16.2% compared with the previous 7-day average of 57,847. A total of 101,094,670 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States as of January 4, 2023. Many people minimize these numbers and say, “Well at least I won’t die.” While that might be true, since no one knows exactly how they will be affected by the virus, it’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Part of the process of responsible planning is to make sure someone can step into your shoes and make healthcare decisions for you.  

How Do You Choose the Right Person?

This is an important role with significant responsibility. For that reason, you should choose carefully. The person you select will have the power to make critical healthcare decisions e.g., consenting to a treatment plan, refusing medical treatment, hiring and firing healthcare aides. Depending upon how the lawyer drafts the Healthcare Directive, the agent will also have authority to access your private medical information. In an earlier blog, “What is an Agent for Healthcare and Finance,” I spoke in more detail about how they are chosen.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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