Healthcare choices have gotten a lot of attention in the news over the last couple of years, and this is something that everyone can address in their estate plan via an advance health care directive or living will. This is a legal instrument that, among other things, allows you to communicate exactly what medical procedures you will allow or disallow. So if you want to be kept alive with life support systems, you can make that known, and if you don’t, you have the legal right to record that preference as well.
Another form of advance healthcare directive is known as a healthcare power of attorney. This legal instrument empowers a person of your choosing to make medical decisions in your behalf. This is extremely important for same sex couples, because as we know most states don’t recognize same sex partnerships. And even same sex couples who are legally married today may face a different set of circumstance at some point in the future. Executing a healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney will ensure that the individual of your choice is empowered to make medical decisions in your behalf if you can’t make them for yourself.
Your advance directive can also include a visitation directive that legally assures your partner’s visitation rights. A recent executive order requires hospitals that receive federal aid to honor health care directives executed by same sex couples, and visitation rights are a part of that order. But the more legal leverage you include in your estate plan, the better.
It’s clear to see how everyone could benefit from the inclusion of an advance healthcare directive into their estate plan, but it is especially important for same sex couples. Though many would say that the prevailing perspective isn’t fair, the ability to choose who makes your decisions and who can and cannot visit you in the hospital is yours via a well constructed advance healthcare directive.