You have the right to choose who will make health care decisions and manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated. Advance directives are written instruments that give others advance instructions or “directives” on how to manage your health care and finances should you become incapacitated. Proper estate planning includes the use of a power of attorney, an appointment of health care representative and a living will or life prolonging procedures declaration. Although Indiana law grants authority for certain individuals to make health care decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself, advance directives ensure that your wishes are respected.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document which you, the principal, can sign granting another person, the attorney in fact or agent, the authority to handle your affairs. A power of attorney may cover financial powers and health care decisions. A relative or other interested person cannot simply “get” a power of attorney over you if you become incapacitated. You may execute a power of attorney only if you are at least 18 years of age and mentally capable when signing the document. Powers of attorney must be signed in the presence of a notary public.

A power of attorney remains in effect if you subsequently become incapacitated unless you specifically state otherwise in the document. A power of attorney may be set up to take effect now or to take effect only upon the occurrence of a specific event such as your incapacity.

Appointments of Health Care Representatives

The Indiana Health Care Consent Act allows the following people to act for you to make health care decisions without your written authority:

1. Your spouse
2. Your parent
3. Your adult child
4. Your adult sibling
5. Your religious superior if you are a member of a religious order

Unfortunately, the Health Care Consent Act does not set forth a priority to any one of the above categories. If there is disagreement among the individuals who may consent under the law, the doctor or hospital is often forced to ask the individuals to seek direction from a court as to the health care decision to be made.

An appointment of health care representative allows you to designate an individual to make health care decisions for you in the event you become unable to make decisions for yourself. The document includes such powers as consent to surgery, choice of a physician, access to medical information, decisions with regard to organ donation, and funeral arrangements. An appointment of health care representative is only effective if you are incapable of making your own health care decisions.

Living Wills and Life Prolonging Procedures Declarations

A living will is a document which allows you to express your wish as to whether or not you want your life artificially prolonged by tubes and machines. A living will is only effective when your attending physician certifies in writing that you have an incurable injury, disease or illness, your death will occur within a short time, and the use of life-prolonging procedures will only serve to artificially prolong the dying process. A living will is only effective if you are incapable of making decisions regarding your own medical care.

A life prolonging procedures declaration allows you to indicate that you do wish to receive medical care, including the use of ventilators and/or artificially supplied nutrition and hydration even if you do suffer from an incurable injury, disease, or illness and your death is expected to occur within a short period of time.

The attorneys of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, PC assist clients with Estate Planning and Elder Law needs, including Wills and Trusts, Advance Directives, Estate Administration, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits, and Special Needs, in Indianapolis, Indiana and the surrounding counties of Boone, Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Howard, Johnson, and Morgan.