Estate Planning Attorney Explains Why You Need Health Care Directives

August 20, 2017

elder law attorneyAn important estate planning question that must be asked is, "Who makes decisions about your medical care if something happens to you?"  This results from illness, injury, incapacity (such as dementia or Alzheimer's), or some other reason.  If something happens, having the right legal documents in place might be a lifesaver.  Simply writing down your wishes ahead of time may not be enough because you cannot anticipate every situation.  You must select someone you trust to manage your care, instead of relying on a doctor, estranged relative, or even a judge, none of whom are likely to be aware of your preferences. In order to accomplish this, you need a Nevada health care power of attorney and an estate planning attorney can help.

There are three health care documents you need in Nevada

In order to prepare comprehensive Nevada health care directives, you need three different health care documents: the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Living Will, and a HIPAA Authorization Form.  The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to select someone you trust to manage your health care when you are unable to do so.  That person is your “agent.”  The second document, the Living Will, allows you to specify in writing the type of medical treatment you agree to receive in certain situations.  This includes end-of-life wishes for health care treatment (often referred to as your "pull-the-plug" directive).  Finally, your HIPAA Authorization Form makes sure those people you want to be involved in this process will not be limited in discussing your private medical care with your physicians, nurses, or other health care providers.

There are certain people who cannot be your agent

The person you select to make your health care decisions is called your agent. It is common for people to name a spouse, partner, child, relative, or close friend as an agent. However, in Nevada your agent may not be:

  • your health care provider
  • an employee of your health care provider
  • an operator of a health care facility, or
  • an employee of a health care facility.

These restrictions do not apply to your spouse, legal guardian, or next of kin, however.  So if your spouse happens to be employed at a health care facility, the restriction would not apply. If you have questions about restrictions on a health care power of attorney, talk to one of our estate planning attorneys.

Restrictions on who can create a Nevada health care power of attorney

In order to create a legally valid power of attorney or living will, you must be considered “legally competent.”  In this context, competency refers to mental capacity, age, and maturity.  In order to enter a legally binding agreement, you must be at least 18 years of age.  This requirement is based on the presumption that individuals who are still immature are too inexperienced to understand or properly execute a contract or legal document.  Furthermore, if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or have any cognitive impairments, you may not create these legal documents without the written certification by your physician that you are of sound mind at the time of signing them.

A power of attorney for health care can become effective immediately

In Nevada, you can authorize your health care agent to take over your medical care immediately upon execution of the document. Accordingly, there will be no need for a physician to determine whether you are incapacitated or not.  Instead, you agent will have the ability to step in and make decisions on your behalf at anytime.  As long as you are competent, you will still be able to dictate your own medical care.  Regardless of when the document goes into effect, your health care agent is always required to act in your best interests and follow your health care wishes as you have expressed them.
If you have questions regarding powers of attorney or any other estate planning matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455. We are here to help!

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