Surgery is a significant event that can leave many people in extended recovery. As you prepare for your surgery, you might also consider putting in place some simple legal documents. These documents will spell out your healthcare wishes if you are not able to communicate them and will name one or more friends or family members who are authorized to make decisions for you if there are complications. Before heading in for your procedure, make sure you have these documents in place.
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Advance Directive/Living Will
An Advance Directive or Living Will states the type of medical care you wish to receive in the event of an end-of-life scenario. For example, your Advance Directive or Living Will could state that you wish to have food and water, but not resuscitation. Giving this document to your doctor and your friends or family members will help them carry out your wishes should something happen that makes you unable to communicate. The Advance Directive or Living Will does not apply during the surgery, but rather only if a complication occurs, and you are unable to make decisions about your care.
Advance Directives and Living Wills also outline your choices and objectives in the event of a terminal illness or other end-of-life situation. These are good documents to have in place at any time, but they are vital when going into surgery.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a special type of Advance Directive that names the person that you want to make decisions for you in the event you cannot make them for yourself. This protects your friends and family from the challenges that arise if they have different ideas about what type of end-of-life care is appropriate because you will empower someone you trust to make those decisions for you.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances gives someone the right to handle your financial and real estate affairs if you cannot make decisions for yourself because you are in a coma or otherwise incapacitated. This can be the same person who receives your Healthcare Power of Attorney, but it does not have to be. Choose someone who can make sound financial decisions and who you can trust with your finances and financial information.
HIPAA Authorization Form
Medical records are protected by law and the only way for a medical provider to release records, even to another medical provider, is with your written consent. HIPAA Authorization Forms give you the ability to provide access to your medical records to other doctors and care providers or to a friend or family member who helps coordinate your care. Having a HIPAA Authorization Form on file before surgery will ensure that all who are involved in your care can access the information they need to ensure the highest quality of care for you.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is an essential end-of-life document everyone should have before undergoing a medical procedure. It not only identifies your beneficiaries for any assets you own, but it also provides instructions for the care of your children or dependents. Without a will in place, your estate, if you pass away, will be distributed by a probate court and your assets may not go where you would wish.
A Living Trust can deliver your assets to your beneficiaries more quickly. When you have a Living Trust, your estate will not go through probate. Instead, your assets are part of the trust, and the trust can pass them along to your beneficiaries when you die. While this might sound complicated, it’s actually a fairly simple process as long as you have the right documentation in place.
Get Legal Help Before Your Surgery
Before your surgery, take the time to get legal help and ensure that your wishes are documented and your loved ones are protected. If you have further questions about protecting your assets, rights, and beneficiaries before an upcoming surgery or if you need help with any of these estate planning documents, talk to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for expert legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.