In the event you become unable to make decisions about your own medical care, due to illness, injury, advanced age or some other reason, having the right legal documents in place can be a lifesaver. Simply writing down your wishes ahead of time may not be enough because you cannot anticipate every situation. You also need to select someone you trust to manage your care, instead of relying on a doctor, estranged relative, or even a judge, none of whom are likely to be aware of your preferences.
No. 1 – There are three health care documents you need in Nevada
In order to accomplish a comprehensive medical power of attorney in Nevada, you need three different types of health care documents: the durable power of attorney for health care, a living will, and a HIPAA authorization form. The durable power of attorney for health care allows you to select someone you trust to manage your health care when you are unable to do so, based upon predetermined statements of your desires. That person you appoint is your “agent” for all medical decisions that need to be made during your incapacity. The second document, the living will, allows you to specify in writing the type of medical treatment you agree to receive (or not receive) in certain situations. This can include “do-not-resuscitate” orders and other living saving procedures. The HIPAA authorization form allows you to identify all people that you wish to receive your medical information that would otherwise be protected under HIPAA laws and regulations.
No. 2 – There are certain people who cannot be your agent
The person you select to make your health care decisions is called your agent. It is common for people to name a spouse, partner, relative, or close friend as an agent. However, in Nevada your agent may not be:
- your health care provider
- an employee of your health care provider
- an operator of a health care facility, or
- an employee of a health care facility.
These restrictions do not apply to your spouse, legal guardian, or next of kin, however. So if your spouse happens to be employed at a health care facility, the restriction would not apply.
No. 3 – A living will is different from a typical will
Despite the name, a living will is nothing like a conventional will (also commonly referred to as your “last will and testament”). It does not address the disposition of your property or assets upon your death; it only provides instructions regarding your health care preferences. It can be as general or specific as you want it to be, as long as it provides sufficient information to health care providers about your preferences. Generally, most living wills will be a directive to your physical to cease or not provide life-prolonging or life-sustaining treatment if the patient has a permanent, terminal, and irreversible condition that will cause the patient’s death within a relatively short period of time. This can avoid the family arguing over whether you would have wanted them to “pull-the-plug” or not.
No. 4 – Restrictions on who can create a medical power of attorney
In order to create a legally valid power of attorney or living will, you must be considered “legally competent.” In this context, competency refers to mental capacity, age and maturity. In order to enter a legally binding agreement, you must have reached the age of majority established for your state. In Nevada, the age of majority is eighteen (18). This requirement is based on the presumption that individuals who are still immature are too inexperienced to understand or properly execute a contract or legal document.
No. 5 – A medical power of attorney can take effect when you become incapacitated
A power of attorney for health care is typically drafted so that it goes into effect once a physician has determined you are incapacitated and unable to make your own health care decisions. Lacking capacity generally means that either you can no longer understand the nature and consequences of the health care choices that are available to you, and/or you are unable to communicate your own wishes for care, either orally, in writing, or through gestures. In other words, if you are so ill or injured that you cannot express your health care wishes, your power of attorney or living will spring into effect immediately. If, however, there is some question about your ability to understand your treatment choices and communicate clearly, your doctor (with the input of your health care agent or close relatives) will decide whether it is time for your health care documents to become operative.
No. 6 – A power of attorney for health care can become effective immediately
In Nevada, you can authorize your health care agent to take over your medical care immediately upon execution of the document, which is preferable since accidents can never be foreseen. In the event of something happening, there will be no need for a physician to determine whether you are incapacitated or not. Instead, you agent will have the ability to step in and make decisions on your behalf at any time. As long as you are competent, you will still be able to dictate your own medical care. Regardless of when the document goes into effect, your health care agent is always required to act in your best interests and follow your health care wishes as you have expressed them.
If you have questions regarding a medical power of attorney, or any other elder law issues, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.