Caring Guidance For More Than 30 Years

Planning For Your Own Care Through Advance Directives

As you age, there may come a time when you are unable to manage your own affairs or make your own health care decisions. You can take steps today to protect your personal interests and make your wishes known. At the Law Office of Claire E. Lewis, our team can help you anticipate mental or physical incapacity and end-of-life issues through advance directives to your family members and medical providers.

We will help you draft a comprehensive life plan that preserves your autonomy as much as possible and limits the intrusion into your personal life while ensuring that you are cared for. That planning includes three main documents: power of attorney, a health care representative and a living will.

Power Of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that you can sign, giving another person (the attorney-in-fact agent) the authority to handle your affairs. A relative or any other interested person cannot simply “get” power of attorney over you if you become incapacitated. You can execute the document only if you are at least 18 years old and mentally capable when signing it. You must sign it in the presence of a notary public.

A power of attorney remains in effect if you subsequently become incapacitated unless the document states otherwise. A power of attorney may be set up to take effect either (a) immediately or (b) only if and when you become incapacitated.

Your power of attorney should be drafted carefully to address such issues as Medicaid planning and the authority of your attorney-in-fact to make gifts on your behalf in the event that you require long-term health care in the future.

A power of attorney can also grant health care decision-making authority to your attorney-in-fact. However, the health care power of attorney should be done in conjunction with an appointment of a health care representative in order to give the attorney-in-fact and representative full health care decision-making powers.

Appointing A Health Care Representative

Without a court-appointed guardian or health care representative, the Indiana Health Care Consent Act allows the following people to act for you without your written authority:

  1.  Your spouse
  2.  Your parent
  3.  Your adult son or daughter
  4.  Your adult brother or sister
  5.  Your religious superior, if you are a member of a religious order

However, the Health Care Consent Act does not give priority to any one of these categories of people, so if there is disagreement among the individuals regarding who can consent under the law, the medical care provider is often forced to ask the individuals to seek direction from a court.

The Indiana Health Care Consent Law allows you to sign a document designating an individual who is authorized to make health care decisions in the event that you become unable to make your own decisions. Virtually all or just a few health-related decisions can be delegated to the health care representative of your choosing.

The document is effective only when:

  1. You are, at the time, incapable of consenting to your health care
  2. The instructions of the health care representative do not overrule your own previous instructions, such as those contained in your living will

You must sign the appointment in the presence of an adult witness who also must sign. The witness cannot be your appointed representative.

Living Wills And Life-Prolonging Procedures Declarations

A living will is a document through which you express your wish to die naturally, without the use of extraordinary life support measures, if you are terminally ill. A living will is effective only when your attending physician certifies in writing that you have an incurable injury, disease or illness, and that your death will occur within a short time, and the use of life-prolonging procedures would serve only to lengthen the process.

The life-prolonging procedures declaration is essentially the opposite of the living will, announcing your intentions to use heroic measures and artificial life support, no matter how extraordinary the procedure or futile the treatment.

You can specify which measures you do or do not want taken on your behalf, such as pain medications at end of life or a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) if your heart stops. These documents are effective only when you are incapable of directing your own medical care.

Preparing Documents To Fit Your Individual Needs

While some forms (such as the living will) are readily available, you should consult an attorney for advice and preparation of these important legal documents. The law is ever-changing, and your documents should be tailored to meet your individual needs.

Health Care Advance Directives
Indiana Funeral Planning Declaration
Indiana organ procurement organization
Living Will
Out of Hospital DNR Order Form
Power of Attorney Act
POST forms (Physician’s Orders on Scope of Treatment)
Indiana University Body Donation

Planning For “Some Day” Starts Today

Advance directives give you peace of mind that your wishes will be honored. They also spare your loved ones from disputes and agonizing decisions. Please call our Indianapolis office today at 317-953-2452 or contact us online to make an appointment.