INCAPACITY PLANNING – PART II
Estate planning is an important part of every Christian’s stewardship responsibilities. A Christian estate plan is one that you develop by determining God’s will for (1) how your assets should be distributed at your death and (2) how your affairs would be managed in the event you become incapacitated during your lifetime.
This lesson focuses on what you need to do to assure: (a) you have set down in writing your wishes regarding “life prolonging medical treatment” and (b) someone of your choosing is properly authorized and empowered to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do that for yourself.
Scripture References: II Kings 20:1b; Proverbs 13:10, 15:22; I Timothy 5:8.
Please read these passages in your Bible now.
What is a living will directive?
A living will directive is a document you can use to state, in writing, your wishes regarding the provision of life-prolonging medical treatment if your doctor and one other document agree that:
-You are permanently unconscious; or
-You have a condition that cannot be cured, you won’t get better, and you are expected
to die within a relatively short time, and treatment will only artificially prolong the
You can include one or more of the following directions in a living will directive:
-Directions that life-prolonging treatment not be provided, or once started will be
stopped if either of the above diagnoses is made;
-Directions that food and water not be provided through artificial means such as tubes,
or once started will be stopped if either of the above diagnoses is made;
-A choice of one or more persons to act as your surrogate to speak/act for you if you
-Directions about donation of all or parts of your body
You may also state that you do not authorize the withholding or removal of life support devices, artificially-provided food and water or the donation of body parts.
“Life-prolonging medical procedures” are any type of medical care that is used to keep a vital body function going after it fails because of illness or injury, if the use of it only artificially prolongs the dying process. Life prolonging medical procedures or treatments include ventilators, dialysis, cardiac assist machines and tubes through which you may be fed.
What is a healthcare surrogate designation?
A healthcare surrogate designation is a provision in a living will directive or durable power of attorney or a separate document by which you can authorize one or more persons of your choosing to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.
The person you appoint to make medical decisions for you is a “healthcare surrogate”. You can name anyone to serve as your healthcare surrogate.
Consideration should be given to naming a first choice and an alternate that could act under the designation if your first choice is deceased or incapacitated at the time a healthcare decision needs to be made for you.
Your healthcare surrogate can make a wide variety of medical decisions. They must honor any specific directions you include in the designation document and must consider the advice of your doctor.
What happens if I haven’t done any incapacity planning and I become incapacitated?
If you become incapacitated and haven’t previously made a durable power of attorney, living will directive and/or healthcare surrogate designation, your family may have no alternative other than to petition the court for a determination that you are disabled and for the appointment of a guardian/conservator.
The determination as to whether a person is legally disabled is a court proceeding involving the county attorney, the alleged disabled person, an attorney appointed for/representing that person, an interdisciplinary team made up of a physician, psychologist and a social worker, and a 6 person jury. If the jury determines that the person is fully disabled (unable to care for personal needs and unable to manage financial affairs) then a guardian/conservator is appointed by the court to handle the personal and financial affairs of the disabled person.
Not planning for incapacity is costly—-both in a financial sense and an emotional one for those that must take that action.
Prayer Focus: Ask for God to guide you in making decisions regarding the provision of life prolonging medical treatment and in the selection of a healthcare surrogate.
The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.