Advance Directives, Living Wills, and Healthcare Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Thursday, February 08, 2018
Schaumburg estate planning lawyer advance directivesProper estate planning is essential for every family, and the decisions made during this process will allow you to protect your personal property and financial assets and pass them on to your heirs after your death. But in addition to considering what will happen after you die, it is also a good idea to plan for how medical decisions will be handled for you if you ever become unable to make these decisions for yourself. The documents detailing your instructions in these matters are known as advance directives, and the two most common directives are living wills and healthcare power of attorney.

Living Wills

With a living will, you can inform a doctor or other healthcare provider that you do not want them to use medical procedures which will delay your death if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. A living will only goes into effect if you have an “incurable and irreversible condition [in which] death is imminent” and you are unable to communicate your preferences to your doctor.

Illinois law provides a standard form for living wills, but you may also create your own customized document, including specific instructions about certain situations or medical procedures you do not want your doctor to perform.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney document allows you to name someone who is authorized to make decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You can give this person, known as your agent, broad authority to make decisions, or you can include specific instructions about what types of decisions they can make, what treatments you do and do not want to receive, whether you would like to donate your organs after your death, and how your remains should be disposed of.

Healthcare power of attorney will go into effect as soon as the document is signed, and your agent will continue to have authority to make decisions until your death, unless you include a time limit. If you have both a living will and healthcare power of attorney, decisions about death-delaying treatments will be made by your agent, unless they are unavailable, in which case your doctors will follow the instructions in your living will.

Contact a Schaumburg Estate Planning Lawyer

In addition to healthcare power of attorney and a living will, you may want to consider other advance directives: a mental health treatment preference declaration which will describe what treatments for mental illness you want to receive if you cannot make decisions for yourself, or a do not resuscitate (DNR) order which states that you do not want to be revived if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating.

If you want to know more about how to create the advance directives that will ensure your wishes are carried out correctly if you are incapacitated, the skilled attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can answer your questions and work with you to create the documents you need. Contact our Barrington estate planning attorneys at 847-934-6000 to schedule a personalized consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Do Not Resuscitate Orders: What You Need to Know

Web Admin - Thursday, May 29, 2014

illinois dnr estate planning attorneyAdvances in medical science and technology have made it possible to revive patients after their heart or lungs have stopped working, often known as heroic measures. One of the most common ways of doing this is via simple mouth to mouth resuscitation or chest compressions. Doctors may also use an electric shock to restart the heart, or they may insert a breathing tube down a person’s throat to open the airway. Additionally, drugs like epinephrine may help restart a person’s heart in the event that it stops. The availability of technologies like these though has led to the proliferation of Do Not Resuscitate orders (“DNR”).

What Is a DNR?

A DNR is a type of “advance healthcare directive.” These are documents that people fill out prior to serious illness or injury that affect the type of care a person will receive. The DNR is a specific advance directive that instructs doctors not to perform heroic measures to resuscitate the person.

DNRs apply only to the narrow issue of resuscitation, so it is important not to confuse it with the two other common types of advance directives: living wills and healthcare powers of attorney. Living wills are a different type of advance directive that have broader applications. Living wills allow a person to record their feelings on a variety of life sustaining treatments like the use of feeding tubes and respirators.

Healthcare powers of attorney transfer the authority to make healthcare decisions to another person in the event that they are unable to make healthcare decisions for themselves. Ordinarily, this document will matter most in situations where a person’s condition is not serious enough to implicate the instructions in a living will, but when they are unable to speak.  

DNR orders are important medical documents that can have profound consequences on a person’s quality of life. Therefore, people should understand the different considerations that can affect whether to institute a DNR.

Elements to Consider

There are two important elements someone should consider when thinking about implementing a DNR: their current quality of life and the effectiveness of resuscitation. With regard to quality of life, resuscitation is often necessary because of ongoing medical problems that may or may not ever improve. These health issues can have a serious effect on a person’s quality of life and may even remove the desire to be resuscitated in the event of death. In fact, a survey of doctors revealed that, knowing the quality of life many resuscitated patients have, 88.3 percent would choose to implement a DNR. Part of that is likely because of the second concern, the effectiveness of resuscitation.

While CPR and other measures can often bring people back to life, it is not a perfect tool. Many CPR attempts result in broken ribs, and often, even though the person survives, the experience leaves them with neurological damage. While many people choose to forego DNRs, it is a very personal decision that should only be made after understanding all of the facts involved.

If you are considering implementing a DNR or another advance directive, seek the advice of an Illinois estate planning lawyer today. Our skilled attorneys help clients make these difficult decisions in towns across the northwest suburbs including Inverness, Long Grove, and South Barrington.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

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