This is the seventh in my series of the 10 most common estate planning mistakes.  

A living will is one of the estate planning tools that we frequently don’t think of as part of an estate plan.  First of all, we don’t want to even make a durable power of attorney for health care because it deals with our medical care and, perhaps, our final hospitalization.  

But you must have a durable power of attorney for health care.

While these articles are generally intended for senior citizens, a durable power of attorney for health care  may be made by any competent adult (age 18). The fact that a person must be competent is important. It is also the major reason you should not put off making a durable power of attorney for health care.  

We just never know when an event may occur which will render us incompetent. So do it now.

Every time I have been to the hospital, I have been asked whether I have a living durable power of attorney for health care. Then, they want to see a copy. So carry one with you if you know you are going to the hospital.  

That is not always going to happen, so your doctor should have one and members of your family.

The purpose of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is to state what medical treatment you want provided and the medical treatment you want withheld or withdrawn when that treatment will only prolong the dying process.

The terms of care you desire should be discussed with your family so they may help you decide what to include. It is also important that they know your desires so they can convey your intent to the doctors and hospital staff. After all, this process is a family concern and ought to be agreed to by both you and your children.

Once you have prepared the durable power of attorney for health care, it is important to make sure your doctor has a copy. When you visit a new doctor, you should take a copy.  

What do you put in your durable power of attorney for health care? There are several important parts.  

First, you must select the person to whom you want to give the power to make these decisions. Usually it is your spouse or one of your children. If not, then a very close and trusted friend willing to assume this responsibility.

There are several important parts to the form. Each part is equally important. You must discuss them with your family and the person to whom you have granted these powers.

The first deals with granting or withholding supplied nutrition and hydration, commonly called a feeding tube. We so often hear about cases where the tube is inserted and then the patient is in a vegetative state and nothing can be done. You will be able to prevent this with a properly worded durable power of attorney for health care.

The second grants the power to make arrangements for health care services. This covers using doctors and arranging for treatments of various types.  Your power of attorney should know your family doctor and follow his/her suggestions about using specialists.

Third, is the placement in a health care, assisted living or residential care facility. There are many facilities able to provide care for those unable to care for themselves. One of the primary concerns is to place the individual in the lowest level of care or least restrictive environment.

Fourth, is granting power to use legal services and grant releases. Before surgery or many special forms of treatment a release must be signed before the service is given. The power of attorney is able to do this for you.

Obtaining information otherwise prohibited by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act) is the sixth area of concern. Today, it is almost impossible for anyone other than the patient to obtain information concerning the health care of another. This will cover that problem.

Then the final authorization is handling of your body after death. These final two powers deal with autopsy and making anatomical gifts of body parts. Here again it is important for the power of attorney to know your desires.

The Missouri Bar Association provides a free form to create a power of attorney. Just go to the Missouri Bar Association website, Then click on “For the Public” and under Forms and Resources, select DPA Health Care Form.  You should be able to copy and fill in the blanks.

As with all of my articles, none of the suggestions here are meant to specifically apply to you. The intent of the article is to give you information and raise questions.  

It is important that you contact your own financial adviser, insurance agent, accountant and lawyer to determine what is best for you and your particular set of circumstances.