Health Care Proxies and Durable Powers of Attorney: Most People Fail to Plan for the Threat of Incapacity Despite Real Need


Todd C. Ratner, Esq.

If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with dementia or another disabling health condition, it is common to feel overwhelmed by the many legal, medical and financial questions that can surface as a result of the diagnosis. Unfortunately, the focus of estate planning is often on what happens after death occurs, and as a result, estate planning in the event of incapacity is often overlooked.

To address these issues, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted legislation that allows for the use of health care proxies and durable powers of attorney to avoid the expensive, time-consuming, emotionally draining, and public process of guardianship and conservatorship in the event that you ever become incapacitated.

Under Massachusetts law, any competent person is authorized to establish a health care proxy. This legal document allows you to appoint someone you know and trust to make health care decisions in the event that you are incapable of making or communicating these decisions. It should be noted that even once the document is executed, you continue to be allowed to make health care decisions as long as you remain competent to do so, and the document lies dormant. The determination of competency is made by

by: Todd C. Ratner

Healthcare News
June 2010

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