Advanced Directives

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Plan for the future. Put your loved ones and yourself at ease.

What you should know about:


Don’t wait until it’s too late to make sure that your affairs will be taken care of. Too often, age or illness renders an individual unable to make necessary decisions about their financial and medical affairs. Friends and family want to help, but they don’t have the authority to act on the individual’s behalf.
Advanced directives solve this problem by giving authority, ahead of time, to those you trust to handle your affairs.

Power of Attorney:
Why should I have one?
A durable power of attorney allows an individual (the Principal) to give legal authority to a representative (the Agent), to handle financial, legal, and other important personal affairs. A power of attorney does not empower anyone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
Examples of powers that can be given include banking, buying or selling of real estate and other property, and handling benefits matters.
A power of attorney takes effect upon the signatures of you and your agent, and lasts for the rest of your life unless you decide to revoke or change it.
The authority can continue in effect even after you (the principal) can no longer manage his or her own affairs.

Will I still be able to manage my own affairs if I have a power of attorney?
Yes. Your agent represents, not replaces, you. So long as you can make your own decisions, you can do so.

Can my agent use his or her authority without asking me first?
Yes. This means that you should absolutely trust anyone you appoint to be your agent. Agents have a legal duty to act only on behalf of the principal, but it can be difficult to repair a situation after an agent has misused the authority.

Health Care Proxy:
Why should I have one?
A health care proxy allows an individual to name someone they trust to make medical decisions if the individual cannot make them for themselves.

The proxy is only empowered to make medical decisions if the principal is unable to make them. If the principal later regains the capacity to make decisions, the proxy’s authority ends.

A health care proxy can make decisions regarding giving the principal artificial nutrition and hydration, but only if the principal has specifically stated that the proxy may do so.

Can I name the same person in both my power of attorney and my health care proxy?
Yes. Your agent and proxy can be the same person, but they do not have to be.

How will my doctor know who to listen to if I cannot communicate?
You should give copies of your health care proxy form to all your medical care providers, so they are clear on whom to contact.

Living Will:
Why should I have one?
A living will gives instructions to an individual’s health care proxy, medical providers, and others on the individual’s wishes regarding medical and end-of-life care.

A living will can explain what decisions you want your health care proxy to make in a given situation.

A living will relieves your loved ones from having to guess your wishes regarding difficult and emotional issues.

Want to know more? Contact The Family Center’s Department of Legal Services to learn more about advanced directives, and plan today to avoid difficulties later.

Advanced Directives do not require a lawyer to execute. They are important legal instruments, however, and a lawyer can advise you on their details to make sure that your documents meet all legal requirements and accurately reflect your wishes.

The Family Center’s legal department can help plan and execute your advanced directives if you live in New York City. For more information, call: 718.230.1379, Ext 150.

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