The rest of the question includes: manage my finances; make my own health care decisions; breathe on my own? If pondering the answers to these questions makes you uncomfortable, then keep reading. You probably haven’t taken the steps required to remain in control of your future if you become unable to communicate your wishes.
Power of Attorney for Finances
In general, signing POA documents will allow you (the principal) to give someone (your agent) the authority to handle your finances and property. Standard forms, such as those provided by the State of Wisconsin Health Department, allow your agent, in addition to yourself, the authority to handle the specific types of assets within the limitations that you describe on the form. Your POA can be durable – the agent continues acting on your behalf when you become incapacitated, or non-durable – a more limited type of POA where the agent’s authority would cease in the event you become incapacitated. An attorney can design a custom document that provides for more specific power capabilities or limitations.
Health Care Advance Directives
In the event that you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself, an advance directive provides instructions for how your loved ones and medical professionals should direct your care. Wisconsin Statutes recognize two forms of advance directives, the Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Declaration to Physicians.
- Power of Attorney for Health Care: With a signed document, your designated health care agent will have an outline of the types of care you want in the event you can no longer make or communicate these choices. It is advisable to discuss medical situations and your attitudes regarding various prognoses with the agent you are going to designate so you can express the feelings behind your decisions. Areas to consider include: mental status, ventilator use, resuscitation, life-sustaining measures, organ/tissue donations, odds of successful outcomes, and even your personal faith.
- A Special ALERT: Young adults who have turned 18 and are unmarried are strongly encouraged to sign documentation to designate a Power of Attorney for Health Care to avoid delays in receiving decisive medical care. If you have a college student, a recent graduate or young adult just starting a career, don’t wait to address this issue.
- Declaration to Physicians (aka Living Will): This document does not give authority to anyone to make decisions on your behalf, but does provide direction to your physician concerning life-sustaining treatments in the event of a terminal condition caused by disease or injury. This document allows you to state whether you would want feeding tubes to be administered if you had a terminal illness or the continuation of life-sustaining procedures if an irreversible, persistent vegetative state was determined by two physicians.
Reflecting on these “what ifs” is uncomfortable to say the least. Another way to think about it is described in the title of a comprehensive guide called “A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs.” Published by the State Bar of Wisconsin with contributions from the Wisconsin Medical Society and Wisconsin Health & Hospital Association, the guide includes the health care advance directive forms and a well-structured dialog about how to contemplate various medical situations. It lists the types of discussions you need to have with your family and physicians so your intentions are understood even when you can’t express them. Regardless of your age or health circumstances, we encourage you to consider taking these steps now while you can. We would like to help by providing you a copy of this guide.
Authored by: Kathleen A. Brost, Trust and Financial Advisor
To receive a complimentary copy of this helpful guide, please call our main number at 920-967-5020, or request one via email firstname.lastname@example.org.