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Unique Estate Law Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Health Care Directive, Part 2: How to Create One

You realize that you need to get a health care directive. But how do you create a valid one? A health care directive is a written document that informs other of your wishes about your health care by allowing you to name a person (“agent”) to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them.

How Do You Make a Health Care Directive?

Your health care directive must meet the following requirementsto be legal:

  • Be in writing and dated.
  • State your name.
  • Be signed by you or someone you authorize to sign for you, when you can understand and communicate your health care wishes.
  • Have your signature verified by a notary public or two witnesses.
  • Include the appointment of an agent to make health care decisions for you and/or instructions about the health care choices you wish to make.

What Can You Put in a Health Care Directive?

You have many choices of what to put in your health care directive. For example, you may include:

  • The person you trust as your agent to make health care decisions for you. You can name alternative agents in case the first agent is unavailable, or joint agents.
  • Your goals, values and preferences about health care.
  • The types of medical treatment you would want (or not want).
  • How you want your agent or agents to decide.
  • Where you want to receive care.
  • Instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration.
  • Mental health treatments that use electroshock therapy or neuroleptic medications.
  • Instructions if you are pregnant.
  • Donation of organs, tissues and eyes.
  • Funeral arrangements.
  • Who you would like as your guardian or conservator if there is a court action.

You may be as specific or as general as you wish. You can choose which issues or treatments to deal with in your health care directive.

Is there Anything You Can’t Put In a Health Care Directive?

There are some limits about what you can put in your health care directive. For instance:

  • You cannot request health care treatment that is outside of reasonable medical practice.
  • You cannot request assisted suicide.
  • You can’t appoint anyone under the age of 18 as your agent.

Creating a legal health care directive can be emotional but it’s not technically difficult.  Please see a lawyer and get one now to avoid causing your family more time and expense later.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery


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From within Hennepin County Unique Estate Law represents estate planning and elder law clients throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park. The Minnesota law firm of Unique Estate Law focuses on all aspects of estate planning, including specialized wills, trusts, powers of attorney and medical directives for married couples, young families, blended families, single parents, gay families and those going through a divorce. Unique Estate Law also handles probate administration, asset protection, Medical Assistance planning, elder law, business succession planning, adoptions and cabin planning.



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