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Health care documents are important to estate planning process

Estate planning in Ohio includes preparation of legal instruments that establish certain preferences that persons have regarding future health care treatments. Two common health care directives are the living will and the health care power of attorney, which may be called by different names in different states. Most people do not usually know the difference between the two, and it is something that the estate planning attorney will take great care to explain to the client.

The living will is a health care directive that tells the treating physicians what to do regarding treatments administered during the person's last days. Doctors and hospitals can take an aggressive approach and administer various life-extending methodologies designed to keep the body parts alive and functioning. This approach, however, almost never is accompanied by any expressions of hope for long-term survival of the patient.

The living will, signed by the patient, tells the treating physicians how to treat him or her during the last days of a terminal illness. Most people instruct the doctors to take them off of life-extending machines or medications, especially when brain death has occurred. However, a few persons ask the physicians to keep them alive at any cost and in any manner available.

The health care power of attorney appoints a health care representative to make medical decisions for the principal when the principal is mentally incapacitated and unable to make such decisions for him or herself. This legal instrument does not allow the representative to make health care decisions while the principal is cogent and competent to handle those decisions but only after a period of incompetence has set in. Because the legal instrument will have been prepared by the estate planning attorney during a period when the maker was fully competent, it can be supported by the attorney's verification of its validity under Ohio law should the document ever be challenged for any reason.

Source: nwitimes.com, "Estate Planning: End-of-life decision making", Christopher Yugo, March 18, 2018

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