The Health Care Power of Attorney and the Advance Medical Directive are critically important estate planning documents. The Advance Medical Directive (often called a “Living Will”) allows you to make your wishes known about whether to withhold life support in certain contexts. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name someone (usually called an “agent” or an “attorney-in-fact”) to make healthcare decisions for you, in the event you are incapable of doing so yourself.
After signing these healthcare planning documents, clients often ask the following crucial question: “How will people know I signed these documents?”
In general, I suggest providing a copy to your health care providers and your agents. You should also have a discussion with your agents about what type of care you may want (or not want). In addition to those steps, many clients opt to submit their healthcare planning documents to a registry.
A registry is a service—usually a website—that allows individuals to submit copies of their healthcare planning documents. The registry then purports to make those copies available to healthcare providers who seek them. A number of private registry companies exist. Some states recognize (or work with) private registries as preferred options for residents.
For example, in Maryland, the registry MyDirectives.com has formal recognition from the Maryland Health Care Commission. In Virginia, the Department of Health operates a registry in conjunction with the U.S. Advance Care Plan Registry. Submitting your health care planning documents with one (or more) of these registries can provide an additional method for your health care providers to locate and access these documents.
To draft or update your health care planning documents, or any other estate planning documents—including Wills, Trusts, and Financial Powers of Attorney—please contact me at (240) 778-2331 or AFriedman@mcmillanmetro.com. I work with clients throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.