Documents referred to as “advance directives” are important for every person because they state who should make your decisions and care for you financially and medically if you become legally incapacitated because of illness or injury. These documents should be prepared and signed before incapacity occurs or your heirs might be faced with a costly, time-consuming, and emotionally strenuous guardianship proceeding. The three most popular advance directives are the Indiana Living Will Declaration, Health Care Advance Directive and Financial Durable Power of Attorney.
LIVING WILL DECLARATION – A “Living Will” is an instrument which states your desire that your life not be prolonged by medical procedures if you have a terminal condition and you are expected to die within a short period of time. In addition to the general language that “no life prolonging procedures be used”, there is specific wording with regard to feeding tubes or hospital-supplied nutrition and hydration. Life prolonging procedures include, but are not limited to, surgeries, dialysis, chemotherapies, radiation and a ventilator. You should execute four copies of the Living Will. It is suggested that one signed copy be retained by your attorney’s office, and the remaining three copies be given to you, thus permitting you to ultimately distribute one to your primary representative, one to your successor representative, and retain one for your records.
HEALTH CARE ADVANCE DIRECTIVE – a “Health Care Advance Directive” is an instrument which designates health care representatives to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. It authorizes, grants, and may even limit the health care authority and duties of the Health Care Representative. A client can even specifically exclude a particular individual from being a Health Care Representative. The Health Care Advance Directive cannot be used by your Health Care Representative unless you are incapacitated. Again, it is suggested that one signed copy be retained by your attorney’s office, and the remaining three be given to you, thus permitting you to ultimately distribute one to your primary representative, one to your successor representative, and retain one for your records.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY – A (Financial) “Durable Power of Attorney” is an instrument which designates representatives (“Attorneys-In-Fact”) to handle all of your financial affairs and act in your stead if you are unable to act for yourself. This document is very broad in that it allows your Attorney-In-Fact to cash checks, move funds, invest money, sell real estate, handle tax matters, etc. Unlike the Health Care Advance Directive, this document can be used by your representative, unless it is limited, regardless of whether or not you are incapacitated. For this reason, it is generally advisable for clients to retain all copies of this document. It is, however, important to notify your representatives of the existence and location of this document and make it accessible in the event of emergency. As with the other advance directives, you should execute four copies of the Durable Power of Attorney.