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How do I make my medical decisions clear for my doctor or family?

To make sure your doctor and loved ones know what you would want to happen if you are not able to make your own medical decisions, you can prepare legal documents to do exactly that. An Advance Directive or Living Will states the type of medical care you wish to receive in the event your surgery does not go according to plan and you are unable to make your own decisions. For example, an Advance Directive or Living Will could state that you wish to have food and water, but not resuscitation. If you have completed either of these documents in the past, you may want to consider reviewing and updating these before a significant medical procedure.

Giving either of these documents to your doctor and your friends or family members instructs them to 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.

How can I protect myself if I cannot make my own medical decisions?

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is sometimes part of an Advance Directive, but one can also be prepared separately. This type of power of attorney names the person that you want to make medical decisions for you in the event you cannot make them for yourself. 

The person you choose should be someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, or follow the instructions provided in your Advance Directive or Living Will. Setting up a Healthcare Power of Attorney protects your family and friends from the challenges that arise if they have different ideas about what type of medical care is appropriate. 

Who can take care of my finances, business, or home?

If you own your own business, have investment accounts, or significant assets, like a home, it can be smart to appoint someone to make important and necessary financial decisions on your behalf if something goes wrong. 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. Depending on your own unique circumstances, you may want to choose someone else to handle your financial affairs.

It is common to choose someone you trust to make sound financial decisions and can safeguard and protect your assets, finances, and financial information. If you want to appoint your Healthcare Power of Attorney as your Durable Power of Attorney to handle your finances, it often requires a separate legal document.

How can I keep other medical providers, or friends and family, informed?

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.

Do I want to prepare a Will before surgery?

Many people often put off creating a Last Will and Testament until they are faced with a significant life event, like undergoing a medical procedure. It is, however, an essential document that can provide your loved ones, and yourself, with some peace of mind. If you have an outdated Will or other estate planning documents, these may be important to update and review before a surgery.

A Will 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, according to your state’s laws, and your assets may not go where you would wish. Once you prepare a Will, updating it becomes a simple process.

Other estate planning tools can also be smart to consider. For example, a Living Trust can deliver your assets to your beneficiaries more quickly. When you have a Living Trust, after you pass, 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. While this might sound complicated, it’s actually a fairly simple process as long as you have the right documentation in place.

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 more questions about protecting your assets, rights, and beneficiaries before an upcoming surgery or if you need help with your estate plan, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable 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.

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