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Advanced directives are your specific instructions for how you want your medical decisions and care handled. These are legal and planning documents you can prepare to ensure your medical wishes are honored should you become unable to speak for yourself someday.
Most people start with a health care proxy, a living will and a durable power of attorney.
With our attorneys’ help, you can prepare a health care proxy and appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions for you should you lack the capacity. The Massachusetts Health Care Proxy Law (M.G.L. c. 201D) establishes your right to do so. Though living wills are not legally recognized by Massachusetts courts, you can prepare one to provide your health care agent with more details about steps you want taken.
In Massachusetts, anyone who is 18 or older can prepare a health care proxy to assert their medical directives. But many people consider health care proxies as they get older, suffer from health conditions or are approaching a major life change, such as marriage or starting a family. One reason is health care proxies clearly document your medical directives, but are also flexible and can easily revoked or updated at any time.
Helping You Prepare a Health Care Proxy
At McGowan & Associates, we advise all of our clients to prepare advanced directive documents to prepare and protect themselves. You can trust our attorneys will take the time to answer your questions and prepare a health care proxy that reflects your individual concerns.
Why Prepare a Health Care Proxy?
- To steer your own health care decisions.
- To reduce the burden of decision-making on family members.
- To ensure your medical care follows your religious beliefs.
- To address critical questions and DNR orders according to your wishes.
- To end medical care after a long battle with a terminal illness.
Choosing a Health Care Agent
Through your health care proxy agreement, you will:
- Appoint your health care agent (you can also appoint an alternate health care agent).
- State your intention for your health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable.
- Specify any restrictions you want to place on your health care agent’s decision-making authority.
A health care agent should be someone you trust and who will act in your best interests. You are giving them the right to make the most important of life decisions. The person should also know and respect your religious and moral beliefs. You should trust them to review your most confidential medical records. This is because your health care agent can request past medical records to help them make a decision.
Your health care agent may be your spouse or another family member. However, you can also choose someone outside your family.
We advise you to choose someone who lives within driving distance and can be physically there at the hospital with you. They should have the time to take on the responsibility – or the flexibility to adjust their schedule.
When Your Health Care Agent Would Act
Once you sign a health care proxy, the document only comes into play if you lacked the capacity to speak for yourself. First, a physician must make a determination that you are unable to make or communicate your own health care decisions. The physician must document the cause and nature of your incapacity, along with their medical opinion on how long it may continue. By preparing a health care proxy, you can address potential concerns which may cause a physician to delay reaching an incapacity determination.
Can I Revoke a Massachusetts Health Care Proxy?
Your health care proxy is effective until you revoke it. One benefit of drawing up a health care proxy is you don’t have to use it. Our attorneys can advise you on how to revoke it should you want to do so. You have this right even after you are admitted to a hospital.
A health care proxy is automatically revoked when spouses divorce or legally separate. Still, consult our lawyers if you have divorced or legally separated after signing a health care proxy. We can update your health care proxy to reflect your new situation.
Contact McGowan & Associates
South Shore Estate Planning Lawyers – Plymouth County Estate Planning Attorneys
McGowan & Associates is based in Norwell and advises clients on Massachusetts estate planning laws. We help our clients develop effective strategies for building wealth, minimizing property tax burdens, preparing wills and protecting their legal rights.
Our estate planning lawyers serve clients across the South Shore, including in Plymouth, Cohasset, Duxbury and Norwell. Call and make an appointment today: 781-261-9977