by Jake Pollack
A consequence of advances in medical care over the last century is that people are living longer with diminished capacities. What would happen if you lost the ability to care for or make decisions for yourself, whether gradually or suddenly? How difficult would it be for your family to decide among them how your medical care and financial affairs would be managed, and who would manage them?
Thankfully, we are able to plan in advance for such occurrences, primarily using “diminished capacity planning” documents. The following documents are statutory; the Texas Legislature has incorporated forms into the Texas Estates Code for all Texans to utilize, but they typically change from state to state.
Statutory Durable Power of Attorney by which you appoint an agent to handle your financial affairs for you if you later lose the ability to handle them for yourself. You can put limitations upon your agent’s authority, if desired, and appoint a successor agent(s) if your first choice is unable to serve in that capacity when necessary.
Power of Attorney & Advanced Directives
Medical Power of Attorney by which you appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you if you later lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself. As above, you can put limitations on your agent’s decision-making authority, if desired, and appoint a successor agent(s) if your first choice is unable to serve when necessary.
Directive to Physicians (alternatively referred to as an Advance Directive or a Living Will) by which you elect whether “life-sustaining treatment” will be continued or withheld if you are later suffering from a terminal or irreversible medical condition and unable to make such decision at that time.
Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Later Incompetence by which you designate the person who would serve as your legal guardian in the event that a guardianship is later required for you or your property.
Authorizing Access to Health Records
In addition to the foregoing, we recommend a comprehensive HIPAA Authorization designating the people who can obtain your protected health information from your medical providers. While you can no longer see a medical provider or receive medical treatment without signing a HIPAA Authorization, we recommend a comprehensive authorization in case you have to receive unexpected medical treatment and are unable to sign an authorization at that time.
Lastly, you may elect to sign a Designation of Agent for Disposition of Remains to designate someone to handle the disposition of your remains, but also to specify the manner in which you want your remains to be disposed.
Please call me (Ext. 107) if you have any questions about these “diminished capacity planning” documents, or want to discuss them further.