What is a Health Care Directive?

A health care directive is a written document that appoints an agent and/or informs others of your wishes concerning your health care. Often people refer to this agreement as a Living Will or a Health Care Proxy. In Minnesota, its proper name is a Health Care Directive. It allows you to designate a person known as an “agent” to make decisions for you when you are unable to decide for yourself. It also gives you the option to state your wishes regarding health care when you are not able to make decisions for yourself. You must be at least 18 years old to make a Health Care Directive. It is not uncommon to name a primary health care agent and a backup agent. Heath care directives can be changed or canceled as long as you have the capacity to do so.

Some of the benefits of an estate plan occur during your lifetime. A health care directive is an agreement that directs how medical decisions are to be made when you cannot make express those decisions for yourself. A health care directive can appoint a health care agent, or describe the type of medical treatment that is desired, or it can do both.

Health care directives sometimes referred to as a living will, gives direction on terminal care decisions as well as medical treatment, services and procedures, living arrangements, personal safety, access to medical records when an individual is unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Health care directives are a good planning option for everyone. Often, people will put off this planning tool thinking they don’t need it yet. The problem with delaying the implementation of a health care directive is that incapacity by accidents or health related conditions can happen suddenly. It is too late to execute a health care directive once the event causing incapacity occurs.

Why Have a Health Care Directive?

Many people say I will make a heath care directive later. Even if you are in good health, planning is necessary. Even healthy people can become incapacitated in an accident. Once you become incapacitated, it is too late to set up a heath care directive. Having someone in place, in advance ensures that decisions will be made by your wishes. The health care directive gives your attending physician notice about who is to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot make those decisions yourself.

Minnesota Law

Minnesota law allows you to inform others of your health care wishes. You can 1) state your wishes for health care decisions and/or 2) appoint an agent in writing to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

How Do I Make a Health Care Directive?

• The directive must be in writing and dated.
• The document must identify you.
• The directive must be signed by you or someone you authorize to sign for you, at a time when you were competent to make those decisions.
• A notary public or two witnesses must verify your signature.
• You should discuss your health care wishes with your doctor or other health care provider and keep a copy of the directive on file with your doctor.

How To Obtain Additional Information

If you want more information about health care directives, please contact your health care provider and Mr. Herrick below.


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