Planning ahead in New York with a living will

While individuals in New York may have heard of advance health care directives, a surprising number do not have one in place. Whether this is due to procrastination, a wish to avoid facing unpleasant issues such as death, or simply a lack of understanding of the issue's magnitude, one thing is clear: there are essentially no negatives or drawbacks to having an advance health care directive. Especially for the elderly, the importance of an advance directive – a living will and a medical power of attorney – is difficult to argue with.

An advance directive allows individuals to document their wishes and desires for health care in the case that they become incapacitated and unable to make – or express -- those decisions at a later date. The medical power of attorney, sometimes referred to as a health care proxy, designates a trusted individual to make medical decisions on another's behalf when the person is incapable of doing so him or herself. It goes into effect only after a physician has certified that the individual is unable to make these decisions.

The living will portion documents clearly and precisely an individual's desires for end-of-life medical treatments. This can include choices about the level of medical intervention as well as wishes for organ donation. Before a living will goes into effect, two physicians will need to certify that the individual is in the lawfully specified medical condition – such as a state of permanent unconsciousness or a terminal illness – and that the individual is not capable of making sound medical decisions.

Since laws governing advance health care directives are different in every state, a New York living will lawyer can offer guidance to make sure the advance directive complies with New York state laws. Advance health care directives do not expire and remain effective until the individual changes them or creates a new one, so it is good practice to review them periodically to make sure they still reflect the individual's wishes. If individuals do not have a living will or advance directive in place, they will have little control over the types of health care they receive when they are no longer able to make decisions. A little bit of planning now can make all the difference later.

Source:, "No downside to having advance health care directives", Mitch Williams, March 1, 2017

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