Start the Conversation about Advance Care Planning Today

June 5, 2023
Nichole M. Baer

Recently, many Lancaster County residents received an email from Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health emphasizing the significance of being prepared for a medical emergency and having the necessary documents, such as an advance directive.  In light of this reminder, we want to delve deeper into advanced care planning and highlight the importance of having updated estate planning documents, including the Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will.  We applaud Penn Medicine for drawing attention to this crucial aspect of healthcare and encourage readers to seek assistance from experienced estate planning attorneys who can guide them through the process and alleviate potential burdens for families.

The Importance of Advance Care Planning:

In medical emergencies or situations where an individual cannot make their own healthcare decisions, advance care planning helps clarify what that individual wants.  You can communicate your desires regarding medical treatments, life-sustaining interventions, and end-of-life care by meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney or establishing a DNR, MOLST, or POLST with your physician.

Estate Planning Documents in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania has two essential estate planning documents that guide medical decision-making: the Healthcare Power of Attorney and the Living Will.  Pennsylvania also permits a Combined Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will, which our attorneys recommend in most situations.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a trusted individual or individuals, known as your healthcare agent or proxy, who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot, such as when a patient develops Alzheimer’s or is unconscious and can’t communicate.  Choosing someone who understands your values, beliefs, and medical preferences is crucial and will abide by your wishes, even when pressured by others.

A Living Will, on the other hand, allows you to specify your preferences for end-of-life care, including decisions about life-sustaining treatments.  In addition, this document provides clear instructions to healthcare professionals and your loved ones about your desires in various medical scenarios, organ donation, and sometimes funeral and burial instructions.  By having a Living Will, you can relieve your family members from the burden of making difficult decisions during emotionally challenging times.

The Importance and Purpose of a Power of Attorney:

It is also essential to consider a broader spectrum of estate planning.  For example, a Financial Power of Attorney is another essential document that should be part of your estate plan.  It grants authority to an individual, known as an Agent, to manage your financial affairs, make legal decisions regarding your assets and debts, pay your bills, manage your investments, and handle other important matters if you are unable to do so, such as incapacity, unavailable, or military service.  By appointing an agent or attorney-in-fact, you can mitigate potential challenges for your family during difficult times.

Take Action and Seek Professional Guidance:

We commend Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health for highlighting the importance of proper planning and preparation for medical emergencies.  If you aren’t sure your loved ones are protected and your wishes are respected, we strongly encourage you to contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys at Russell, Krafft & Gruber.  They possess the expertise to guide you through creating and executing estate planning documents, such as the Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney.  Don’t wait until it’s too late—take the proactive step of securing your future and easing the burden on your family.