Estate planning is something that Ohio residents of all ages should do. While many people think estate planning is only for older adults or people with serious illnesses, people of all ages can benefit from estate planning. One important aspect of estate planning in particular that can benefit Ohioans of all ages and socioeconomic statuses is the creation of advance directives. What are advance directives? If you become incapacitated and cannot voice your own wishes about your healthcare and certain medical decisions, advance directives can provide information about your wishes to your healthcare team, and they can also designate another person you trust to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so yourself.
The Ohio Hospital Association provides detailed information about advance directives, and you should discuss your options with an experienced Ohio estate planning lawyer. In the meantime, we want to provide you with more information about two key types of advance directives and how they work.
A living will is quite different from a last will and testament that you would create in order to clarify how you want your assets or property distributed to heirs in the event of your death. Unlike that type of will, a living will (also known as a Living Will Declaration in Ohio) is a document that allows a person to clarify whether and what type of life-sustaining treatment they want to have if they cannot make such a decision for themselves. In a living will, a person can stipulate whether they want life-sustaining treatment to be withheld or withdrawn, or if they want any type of artificially or technologically supplied nutrition or hydration (typically through a feeding tube).
A living will only becomes applicable if you are in a terminal condition or in a permanently unconscious state. If you are in a terminal condition or in a permanently unconscious state, then your living will takes precedence over a Health Care Power of Attorney.
Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
A durable Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name a person as your agent, or your attorney-in-fact, to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and cannot make such health care decisions for yourself. The person named through your Health Care Power of Attorney can make decisions if you are seriously injured in an accident, for example, or if you require emergency surgery and are under anesthesia.
To clarify the distinction between a Living Will Declaration and a Health Care Power of Attorney, if you have both, then the person named as your agent will not be able to determine whether you have life-sustaining treatment if you have a terminal condition or you are in a permanently unconscious state. Instead, the wishes you have expressed in the Living Will Declaration will be honored. Otherwise, if you have named an agent in a Health Care Power of Attorney and you do not have a Living Will Declaration, then your agent will be able to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment if you have a terminal condition or you are in a permanently unconscious state.
Seek Advice from Our Estate Planning Lawyers in Ohio
Advance directives are just one aspect of estate planning in addition to other tasks such as the development of wills, creation of trusts, and handling of probate issues. If you need advice about advance directives or any other aspect of estate planning, you should get in touch with our Ohio estate planning attorneys to learn more about the services we provide to clients in Lake County and Cuyahoga County. Contact Dworken & Bernstein to discuss your estate planning needs.