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Estate planning in PA: What you need to know about health care directives

Living wills and health care power of attorneys can help ensure you receive the care you prefer in the event of incapacitation.

Law makers in Pennsylvania have worked to ensure that residents are able to control their health care decisions. This is true even when residents are incapacitated. Incapacitation can happen in many circumstances, including illnesses, accidents at work, automobile crashes or other emergencies. As a result, it is wise for those who wish to have control over how their treatment is managed in these situations to put together an advanced health care directive.

Advanced health care directives in Pennsylvania: Defined

An advanced health care directive is defined by state law as a health care power of attorney, living will or a written combination of a health care power of attorney and living will. Many of the terms within this definition are further defined by state law. These terms include:

  • Health care power of attorney. This legal tool refers to a writing made by a principal designating an individual to make health care decisions for the principal.
  • Living will. This document is a writing made that expresses a principal’s wishes and instructions for health care and health care directions when the principal is determined to be incompetent and has an end-stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious.
  • Principal. The term used in both definitions above, a principal refers to the individual who executes the document. The individual creating this document can designate or disqualify another from acting as a health care representative.

In keeping with the goal of providing residents with control, this law also allows for the creator to revoke the documents. A living will may be revoked at any time, regardless of the creator’s mental or physical condition. A health care power of attorney may be revoked when the principal is of a sound mind. The revocation is completed through the use of a writing or by personally informing the attending physician, health care provider or health care agent that the health care power of attorney is revoked.

Advanced health care directives in Pennsylvania: The importance of legal counsel

These documents are a beneficial part of any estate plan. As a result, those who are looking to put together or update an existing estate plan are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney. This legal professional will review your goals and help to better ensure a plan is put together that meets your needs.