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ADVANCE DIRECTIVES

The term "advance directives" is an umbrella term used to describe the legal documents that a competent person implements to provide guidance regarding medical decisions in the event the person becomes incompetent.  The term includes durable powers of attorney for health care decisions, living will declarations, and waivers of medical privacy rights, all of which are discussed below.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE DECISIONS

A durable power of attorney for health care decisions is a document that appoints the person you wish to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so.  The maker of a power of attorney document is referred to as the "principal", and the person appointed to represent the principal is called the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact".  A "durable" power of attorney survives a principal's incapacity, meaning the document remains valid even if the principal later becomes incapacitated.

Without a valid durable power of attorney for financial decisions, if you become incapacitated, frequently the only way to handle your medical and personal care is to have you declared an adult with an impairment in need of a guardian through the courts and have the court appoint a guardian to make such decisions. Thus, a durable power of attorney for health care decisions can be an important first step in keeping your personal affairs out of the court system.

LIVING WILL DECLARATION

A living will declaration contains your wishes regarding end of life decisions.  Kansas law provides for a statutory form that the living declaration should be in.  You may, however, add additional instructions to the statutory form.  It is advisable to add your wishes regarding artificial nutrition and hydration in the event you are not able to eat and drink on your own near the end of your life.  If you do not specifically make this decision for yourself or give your agent the power to make this decision for you, a court order may be required prior to these decisions being made for you, similar to the Terry Schiavo case from Florida.

AUTHORIZATION FOR RELEASE OF PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION

This document contains a waiver of your medical privacy rights, allowing all persons named in the document to access your medical records.  This document extends beyond death, in the event your authorized persons feel it necessary to obtain medical records after your death.  Your durable power of attorney for health care decisions ceases at death, making this document extremely important to your overall estate plan.


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