This is a subsequent post in the series of essential tools which I believe should be a part of every estate plan.  The complexity of any estate plan is driven by the specific circumstances and the ultimate goals of the testator.  However, there are some tools that are so crucial that they should be included in all planning – at the minimum – regardless of the estate size.  My last post delved into one such important tool, the healthcare power of attorney.  This document allows you to designate an Agent with a healthcare decision-making authority on your behalf.  It must be in writing, signed by the Principal, and witnessed and signed by two adults.  I also emphasized the importance of speaking to an experienced estate planning attorney who can assess your situation, evaluate options, and recommend the best course of action.  In this article, I will discuss another crucial estate planning tool – the advance directive for health care. If you or a loved one are in need, get in touch with our estate planning law firm online or by telephone, to speak to a wills and trusts lawyer.

An Oklahoma advance directive designates a healthcare proxy and plans for end-of-life situations

As stated in the previous article, a healthcare power of attorney lets you designate an Agent who can make healthcare decisions for you.  However, such powers have limitations.  The Agent may not decide whether to withhold life-sustaining treatment, hydration, or nutrition – if the Principal is persistently unconscious or has no real prospect to live.  Such decision-making powers can only be granted through a legal document called an advance directive.  It consists of two parts: a living will, and appointment of a healthcare proxy.

The living will is not a traditional will but rather a written instruction that tells the world how to address your end-of-life situation.  It typically covers the circumstances when you have no real prospect of living such as an incurable terminal condition, persistent unconsciousness, and an end-stage condition caused by injury disease, or illness.  In each of these situations you generally have three options: (i) not to extend your life through life-sustaining treatment, hydration, or nutrition; (ii) not to extend your life through life-sustaining treatment but to provide artificial hydration or nutrition; or (iii) to extend your life through life-sustaining treatment, hydration, or nutrition.

The appointment of a healthcare proxy allows you to appoint a person who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf and carry out the instructions given under the directive if you are unable.  While your proxy must follow the directions given under the advance directive, they still possess a broad range of decision-making powers.  This includes giving consent for medical procedures, selecting doctors, and authorizing admission to or discharge from a hospital.  It is crucial to nominate someone you trust absolutely as your healthcare proxy.

A valid Oklahoma advance directive for healthcare must be signed by the declarant and witnessed by two adults

According to the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act, the document must be in writing, executed by the declarant who is at least 18 years of age, and witnessed by two adults.  The statute states that all Oklahoma advance directives must be substantially similar to the form as listed under the Act (click here to access the form).  It’s advisable to nominate an alternate healthcare proxy in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act.  If you wish to be an organ donor and would like to ensure that your wishes are carried out, you may also give such instructions in this document.  An advance directive remains valid unless you physically destroy it or execute a subsequent document with different instructions. It’s important to provide a copy of an executed document to your primary physician to ensure that your wishes are carried out if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself.

Estate planning involves not only the disposal of your estate on your passing but also helps you plan for the later years when you may be unable to make decisions for yourself.  If you or a loved one are in need of an advance directive for healthcare, we are here to help.  Let our knowledgeable estate planning attorney give your case the attention it deserves, and help you navigate the process.  Please contact us online or by telephone to get in touch with an estate planning law firm and speak to an advance directive lawyer.  We proudly serve Oklahoma County, Cleveland County, Logan County, and Grady County.