Ten Things You Should Know About Health Care Proxies and Living Wills in Massachusetts – Living Will

It is unfortunately true that we often get what we pay for. If you download your Health Care Proxy from the Internet, get it from a book, or from an attorney who does not adequately explain what you need to know about advance directives, you may end up with an ineffective or unenforceable Proxy. The following list of the ten things you must remember to make your advance directives as effective as possible is specific to Massachusetts, but useful for residents of any state:1. Executing a Living Will is not enough. Although Living Wills are useful documents, they are not statutorily recognized in Massachusetts, and doctors and hospitals are not required to adhere to the wishes expressed in your Living Will. You need to execute a Health Care Proxy that names an Agent who will enforce your wishes.2. In addition to identifying the Principal (you) and your Agent, your Proxy must state that you intend to grant to your Agent the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf; describe any limitations you wish to place on your Agent; and indicate that your Agent’s authority becomes effective only if you subsequently lose capacity to make medical decisions. (Also, it is wise to include the addresses and telephone numbers of your Agent and Alternate, so they can be located quickly).3. Your Proxy must be signed by you or at your direction in the presence of two adult witnesses. The witnesses must then sign and affirm that you appear to be at least eighteen, of sound mind, and under no constraint or undue influence. (It’s a good idea to follow these rules if you execute a separate Living Will.)4. The witnesses cannot be named as an Agent or Alternate Agent. And an operator, administrator, or employee of a medical facility where you are, or may be, a resident or patient cannot be your Agent, unless she is also related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption.5. Do not hide your Proxy and Living Will in a safe. Execute five or six originals, one for your primary care physician (with oral and written instructions to place the documents in your medical records), one for your medical records at the hospital you are likely to end up at in an emergency, one for your Agent and one for your Alternate, one for your own records, and a copy for your lawyer’s safe.6. If you spend a lot of time in another state (winters in Florida, for example) you should consult an attorney in the second state to ensure that your Proxy will also be recognized there.7. If your Agent is your spouse, and you divorce or are legally separated, your entire Health Care Proxy is revoked. In other words, your Alternate Agent cannot step in and take the place of your spouse. In this case-or if you revoke your Proxy orally or by drafting a substitute-you should collect your old documents, destroy them, and distribute your new Proxy.8. Select your Agent and Alternate carefully. Make sure they understand your wishes and are willing to do all they can to ensure they are honored. Communication is vital.9. Express your wishes as clearly as possible in your Proxy and Living Will. Clarity and brevity will help your Agent, family, and doctor understand your wishes.10. Communicate, communicate, and communicate.
a. Talk to your family about the wishes you have expressed in your Proxy and Living Will and tell them who you have selected as your Agent and Alternate. Surprise, hard feelings, or controversy around your hospital bed may create an unpleasant situation and could result in your wishes not being honored.
b. Talk to your doctor about your Proxy and Living Will. Make sure she, and the facility at which she enjoys staff privileges, are willing to honor your wishes.

Don’t “Lose” Your Living Will – Storage Places to Avoid – Living Will

Question: I just came back from my attorney with my estate planning documents.  One of my documents is a “living will,” but I have no idea where to put it.  How about putting it where it will be safe, like in my bank’s safe deposit box?Answer: Remember that a living will is only useful if it is found!  You should store your living will (also called an “advance healthcare directive”) where it will be found when it is truly needed.If your family has no idea where your living will is, the document is useless.  If it is never found, it is a legal document without any effect.  It will never serve any function.  The purpose of having a living will in the first place is to grant authority to your agent: Through that document your agent is given the legal authority to make essential healthcare decisions on your behalf.  But if your agent cannot find the document, he or she may never be able to make the decisions that you intend.Where should you never store your living will?  Here are some places to avoid, the first being exactly where you are thinking of putting it:Your safe deposit box.  Sorry, but think again!  If your agent does not have access to your bank safe deposit box, obviously he or she may never be able to get the living will in time so that it can be used.Your home safe.  This is like placing your healthcare directives in the bank’s vault.  If only you have the combination to the safe, then your agent will probably never find it.Giving it to someone unknown to your agent.  This is another way to “lose” your directives — giving the living will to someone other than your agent, without your agent’s knowledge.  Again: If your agent has no idea where the living will is, then how can he or she get it?  Giving the original to someone at odds with your agent.  Some of you may have intra-family turmoil.  Obviously, never give your living will with someone who often fights with or is at odds with your designated agent.  Remember: The purpose of the living will is to ensure that your wishes are carried out.  PERIOD.  Your directives are not to be used in a way to be “fair” to another family member, or for any purpose other than ensuring that your wishes are followed.Putting it where nobody would ever look.  This is a general category.  Never place your living will in a secret place, or in the middle of a “mess.”  It should be kept in a place known to your agent, or otherwise where important papers are kept.So many people go to the expense of preparing a living will, but give little thought as to where it should be kept.  Even more important, they place their living wills in entirely inappropriate places.  Make sure that your agent knows where you have stored your living will.Disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice, and the use of it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any liability that might arise from your use or reliance on this article or any links from this article is expressly disclaimed. This article is not to be acted upon as if it were legal advice, and is subject to change without notice, or may include obsolete or dated information, or information not relevant to your jurisdiction. If you require legal services, you should consult with an attorney.