Most people think estate planning only addresses the distribution of your property upon your death. A very important aspect of estate planning are your advance directives. These documents address your decisions regarding your health care should you be incapacitated and or terminally ill.
If you cannot make health care decisions for yourself and you have not executed the applicable advance directives described below, a health care “surrogate” may be chosen for you. Under Illinois law, two doctors must certify that you cannot make health care decisions for yourself before a health care surrogate can be appointed.
A health care surrogate can be one of the following persons (in order of priority): guardian of the person, spouse, any adult child(ren), either parent, any adult brother or sister, any adult grandchild(ren), a close friend, or guardian of the estate.
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will-Declaration
- HIPAA Release
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
- Physician Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
Illinois Department of Health
The health care power of attorney lets you choose someone to make health care decisions for you. You are called the “principal” in the power of attorney form and the person you choose to make decisions is called your “agent.” Your agent makes health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself. So long as you are able to make these decisions, you will have the power to do so. You may give your agent specific directions about the health care you do or do not want. The agent you choose cannot be your health care professional or other health care provider. You should have someone who is not your agent witness your signing of the power of attorney.
A living will informs your health care professional whether you want death-delaying procedures used if you have a terminal condition and are unable to state your wishes. A living will, unlike a health care power of attorney, only applies if you have a terminal condition. A terminal condition means an incurable and irreversible condition such that death is imminent and the application of any death delaying procedures serves only to prolong the dying process.
Even if you sign a living will, food and water cannot be withdrawn if it would be the only cause of death. Also, if you are pregnant and your health care professional thinks you could have a live birth, your living will cannot go into effect.
If you have both a health care power of attorney and a living will, the agent you name in your power of attorney will make your health care decisions unless he or she is unavailable.
A HIPAA Release allows health care facilities to disclose your protected medical records. It will be helpful for your medical providers to be able to share your medical status and records with your health care agent and family members so that they can make informed health care decisions and work with your insurance company.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
Physician Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
A POLST form is a signed medical order for documenting the life-sustaining treatment wishes of seriously ill patients. It travels with the patient to assure that treatment preferences are honored across settings of care.
A POLST form differs from a standard DNR order in one important way: A POLST form also includes directions about life-sustaining measures in addition to CPR, such as intubation, antibiotic use, and feeding tubes. The POLST form helps medical providers understand your wishes at a glance, but it is not a substitute for a properly prepared durable power of attorney for health care.
In Illinois, a durable power of attorney for health care provides more information than a POLST form, including details about your health care agent, more complete health care wishes, and your preference for organ donation. Therefore, even if you have a POLST form, you should complete a health care power of attorney to provide a full set of wishes about your care.
In 2015, Illinois’s POLST form replaced other types of DNR orders in the state, which is why it is sometimes called a DNR/POLST form.