If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life is uncertain. It has always been possible for people to go suddenly from perfectly healthy to very ill, but COVID-19 made that possibility frighteningly real for many of us. Fortunately, as of this writing, the pandemic seems to be abating somewhat. But the need to be prepared for sudden health emergencies remains.
Fortunately, Minnesota provides options for adults to make their health care wishes clear in a document called a health care directive, which is an important component of your estate plan. It allows you to express your wishes for medical care and end-of-life care in writing, in the event that you become physically or mentally incapacitated.
Your health care directive also allows you to appoint an agent (also known as a health care proxy or health care power of attorney) to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to. Here is some essential information about Minnesota health care directives.
Any Minnesota adult over the age of 18 who wants control over their medical treatment, including what care they will receive if they become gravely ill. Your health care directive helps to ensure your wishes are honored, and it spares your loved ones the need to try to figure out those wishes and make difficult decisions during a crisis. It also prevents conflict between your loved ones in the event they disagree about what care you should receive.
In order to meet legal requirements, your directive must:
Your directive is effective as soon as the above requirements are met.
Your health care directive can include your personal thoughts and instructions for a variety of situations such as:
You can be as specific or as general as you wish with many instructions. If you are not sure what you want, you can leave many decisions up to your health care agent.
There are certain things you cannot legally do in a Minnesota health care directive, such as:
This is an important decision because you need to be able to count on this person to make the medical decisions for you that you would make for yourself. It is a good idea to choose someone close to you, such as a family member or friend who will respect your wishes.
You can use a health care directive form, or your attorney can prepare a customized directive for you. Working with an attorney can be helpful because your attorney can help make sure that you understand your options and what you are requesting. If you do not use an attorney to help prepare your health care directive, make sure you understand what you are signing and that you have the proper witnesses or notary public to verify your signature.
Probably. If it meets Minnesota’s legal requirements or the requirements of the state in which it was made, your existing health care directive should still be valid. Just be aware that any requests for assisted suicide will not be honored in Minnesota, and it is important to ensure that all information is up to date; for example, information about where you want to receive health care treatments.
It’s simple to do. A new health care directive will cancel and supersede an old one, which is part of the reason the document must be dated. Other ways to cancel a health care directive include destroying it, telling at least two people that you want to cancel it, or writing and dating a statement that you want to cancel it. If you change or cancel your directive, make sure that your agent is aware of it.
If you have questions about Minnesota health care directives that were not answered in this blog post, or would like to prepare or update a directive, we invite you to contact Mundahl Law to schedule a consultation.