by A.K. Lehmann, Paralegal.
A health care proxy and living will are a part of a comprehensive elder law estate plan.
A living will describes certain life prolonging treatments which indicate preferred medical care in the event you either suffer from a terminal illness or you will become in a permanent vegetative state. It usually requires certification by a doctor. The health care proxy gives someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated. Neither of these documents, however, addresses personal and emotional desires or spiritual beliefs around the end of life process.
Aging with Dignity, a privately-funded, non-profit organization which advocates for the elderly and their caregivers, developed a legal advance directive document that compels you to think about situations which arise at the end of life.
The Five Wishes document prompts you to answer questions about:
• The person who you want to make care decisions for you,
• The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want,
• How comfortable you want to be, and • What you want your loved ones to know.
After completing the questions, the document must be signed and witnessed. After that, The Five Wishes document meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in New York State. There are other requirements if the document is completed in a mental institution (See N.Y. Pub. Health Law Section 2981 (b)).
It is available for downloading on the Aging with Dignity website for a fee.
A New York elder law attorney can assist in making sure all of the legal documents you need are in an individually designed and comprehensive elder law estate plan. Having an experienced advocate for end of life issues may be desirable and even necessary. It is, after all, a process that may be the most important and complex one of you and your families’ lives. Anything that you can do to make it easier for loved ones will be greatly appreciated – perhaps even more than leaving behind a well-planned financial legacy.