Medical Advance Directives in New York

Helping Clients in New York City Draft Detailed Advance Directives

Estate planning documents do not only apply to what happens after death. Many aspects of a comprehensive estate plan address what happens if you become incapacitated for a period of time. You want to ensure that you have a trusted representative by your side, making decisions for you as you would have made yourself. In order to ensure this scenario, you should discuss drafting advance directives with an experienced elder law attorney.

The lawyers at Goldfarb Abrandt & Salzman LLP are ready to help you design and implement an estate plan that will protect your estate, your family, and your personal interests both before and after you pass away. We can help ensure you have all of the necessary documents in place, including advance directives that properly express your wishes.

What Are Advance Directives?

Advance directives are actually legal documents that each serves its own purpose in advising others of your wishes for handling your financial affairs and for medical and end-of-life care. The following is a brief description of Medical Advance Directives. There are also financial directives called Powers of Attorney that are not discussed here. To discuss them in more detail, contact our office directly.

Living Will

This document sets out exactly what type of treatment you do or do not want at the end of your life. In New York, this document can take effect when your doctor declares you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself or express your decisions. Carefully consider what types of treatment you may oppose and clearly state your intentions in your living will.

Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR)

This document can be signed in a hospital or doctor’s office and should be signed by your doctor. This document instructs emergency workers and medical providers not to take measures to revive you if your heart or breathing stops. If you are already incapable of agreeing to a DNR in the hospital, your health care agent (discussed below) can agree to the DNR for you. You can also state your DNR wishes in your living will and health care proxy so your instructions are clear even if you cannot sign the DNR form.

Health Care Proxy

The health care proxy is a critical document that designates someone to be your health care agent. This means they will have the responsibility of making decisions regarding your medical care when you become unable to do so. In New York, your agent receives this authority after a physician determines you are not capable of making your own decisions.

Your health care agent should be familiar with your living will and any DNR forms you signed. You should select someone who you trust and who closely understands your values and wishes. You can also name an alternate person in case the first person is not able to take on the responsibility for any reason. In New York you can only have one agent at a time. In order for the document to have legal authority, you must appoint an agent and sign the form in front of two adult witnesses. If you want to change your agent any time in the future, you only need to have two people witness a new form. You should destroy any old forms and advise anyone who has the old form to do the same.

When it comes to the details of your advance directive, you should carefully consider what you want to include. You can give instruction regarding specific treatment, but no one can foresee every possible scenario. It is especially important to discuss your values and outlook on treatment with your health care agent. The more they know, the better they can make decisions in a situation you did not specifically address in your documents. In New York your agent can only make decisions regarding feeding and hydration if they know your wishes. It is best to state that your agent knows your wishes on the form.

Hospice Decisions

Your documents can also discuss what you would prefer for hospice care. There are many types of hospice environments, with different approaches toward the spiritual, social, mental, emotional, physical, and economic needs of patients who likely will not live for more than six months. Some hospice programs are in nursing homes or hospitals, while some take place right in your home. You should discuss your hospice preferences and perhaps even select a particular program with your health care agent.

No Adult Is Too Young for an Advance Directive

You may think that these legal documents are only for older adults. However, once you turn 18 years old, your parents no longer have the right to make decisions on your behalf. In some situations, even a spouse cannot dictate your medical treatment without getting legal authority from a health care proxy and other forms. If no one is allowed to speak for you, your treatment decisions will be in the hands of your doctor or hospital. They can decide to administer treatment that artificially prolongs your life or goes against your religious beliefs. You want as much control over your care as possible, so you want someone with the ability to speak for you.

In New York there is now a Family Health Care Decisions Act, which lists who can make these decisions for you if you are unable to and you have not named a health care agent. It is always better to name your agent in a health care proxy.

While no one enjoys thinking about the end of life, the reality is that an injury or illness can suddenly render you incapacitated at any age. Once you or your child turns 18, it is never a bad idea to put some basic estate planning documents into place, including advance directives. Once drafted, you can have peace of mind, and then revisit estate planning when it becomes necessary to have a more complex and comprehensive plan. Such plans include:

  • A last will and testament
  • Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Health Care Proxy and Advance Directives
  • Long-term care planning
  • Tax planning
  • Life insurance and irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs)

While some estate plans are complicated, others include only basic documents, such as a will, power of attorney and advance medical directive. You should discuss the specific documents that are appropriate for your situation with an attorney experienced in New York estate planning law.

Consult Our New York Elder Law Attorneys Today

The law firm of Goldfarb Abrandt & Salzman LLP helps clients of all ages with their estate planning and elder law needs. Call (212) 387-8400 or contact us online to discuss the many ways we can help with your future planning.