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The importance of health care directives

As medicine and technology advance, life expectancies in Nevada and throughout the United States are increasing. Along with longer lifespans come increasing complexities. For instance, it is likely that at some point, most people will need to make an important medical decision. In some cases, the person may not be able to express his or her own wishes concerning medical care. One way to deal with this situation is to grant a trusted relative or friend power of attorney to make medical decisions on an individual's behalf. This person is known as a health care proxy, and these advance preparations are known as health directives.

In addition, individuals may draft a living will, which is a written expression of how a person wishes to be treated in various medical circumstances. For example, a person may express a desire to have every possible medical intervention, while another may choose not to have any measures taken. Care should be taken in drafting and reviewing a living will since many of the passages in standard living wills have significant implications.

A lawyer with a background in estate planning may review the language of a typical or standard living will and explain the implications. In addition, a lawyer may help with the selection and appointment of a health care proxy.

Once the decision has been made regarding who should be granted power of attorney for medical decisions and what should be included in a living will, the lawyer may draft the necessary documentation. Depending on the jurisdiction, one or more witnesses must be present at the signing of health care directive documents. The lawyer may ensure that the documentation satisfies all state and federal legal requirements.

Source: American Bar Associate, "Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives", November 30, 2014

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