Estate Planning Includes Health Care Directives

Estate Planning Includes Health Care Directives

 Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

My most well-attended workshops are Estate Planning classes.  I guess it’s because everyone knows death is inevitable and they will need to deal with this issue eventually.  The number of people under the age of 50 in attendance can usually be counted on one hand.  Estate planning is especially critical for young couples with kids to establish guardians and make financial arrangements for their children in the event of the unthinkable.  I always go out of my way to thank them for attending.

But an estate plan does not include just wills and trusts.  It also includes documents that inform your family and medical providers about what type of health care you desire at the end of your life.  Make sure you use the documents for your state of residence since state laws can vary. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), Aging Services Division, has heath care forms available that you can fill out on your own.  

Advanced Directive for Health Care

The Advanced Directive (AD) is the best means of expressing your wishes to physicians and others regarding the medical care you wish to receive during the time just prior to your death.  The AD contains four parts:  Living Will, My Appointment of My Health Care Proxy, Anatomical Gifts (organ donation), and General Provisions.

  • The Living Will allows you to specify what type of medical treatment you desire if you become incapacitated.  Under Oklahoma law, if you do not have a Living Will, medical providers must assume you want nutrition and hydration to keep you alive.  
  • You can designate a health care proxy to make medical decisions for you in case you are incapable of making your wishes known.  This person has the right to request or refuse treatment for you.

Other helpful information:

  • You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind.
  • Two witnesses over the age of 18 must sign the document.  They cannot be related to you nor can they inherit from you. It does not need to be notarized.
  • Only you can fill out this form for yourself – not a family member, guardian or durable power of attorney.
  • You can revoke it at any time in writing or by simply telling your physician, other health care provider, or a witness.
  • Make copies of your AD for your records and family members.  Give the original to your physician to make part of your medical record.
  • This form is also available in Spanish and Vietnamese from OKDHS.
  • For answers to frequently asked questions, click here.

Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Form

By completing the DNR form, you are instructing physicians and all medical providers that in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest, you do not consent to the administration of CPR in any form.  You can sign this form at home – you do not need to wait to sign it at the hospital or nursing facility.  Once signed, the form is portable.  Take it with you to the hospital or nursing facility and it must be honored.  The form is effective immediately.

  • Two witnesses over the age of 18 must sign the document.  They cannot be related to you nor can they inherit from you. It does not need to be notarized and your doctor does not need to co-sign.
  • If you want this form to be used in your home, display it above your bed and/or on your refrigerator door so emergency responders can see it.  Many print this document on bright yellow paper so it can be easily seen.  If emergency responders do not see it, they are required under Oklahoma law to administer CPR. 
  • You do not have to buy a necklace or bracelet, but you may if you wish so emergency responders know your wishes right away. You must cover this expense – OKDHS will not provide necklaces and bracelets.
  • For a copy of the DNR guide, click here.

Do I need a Durable Power of Attorney?

My workshop attendees frequently ask me if they need a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to appoint someone to handle their financial affairs in the event they become incapacitated.

  • The term Durable means the power stays in effect after you become incapacitated.  
  • If it is also Springing, that means the power begins once you are legally declared incapacitated, which may take a while.  Otherwise, the DPOA goes into effect immediately upon signing even if you are not incapacitated

The state of Oklahoma does not have a form for this because they feel you must have an attorney explain this to you.  A DPOA for finances is a very powerful document – that person would have authority to handle all of your financial affairs.  Some consider it a license to steal.  It is very difficult to police this person.  So it is very important you understand what you are doing before appointing someone as your DPOA for finances.  Contact your local attorney or Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (www.legalaidok.org, 1-888-534-5243) if you have any questions.

If you have any questions about any of these documents or need help in filling them out, please contact OKDHS, Aging Services Division at (405) 522-3069.

Visit my Estate Planning page for more information.