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How can a person communicate her health care wishes?

Communication is one of the most important tools Minnesota residents use to get things done. It is also a central principle of estate planning, as individuals have many wishes that they wish to convey to others, and they have a number of options at their disposal for communicating those wishes.

For example, one key area in which it is vital that individuals communicate their wishes is when it comes to health care decisions. While a person can make these decisions for himself or herself while they are able, it is common for individuals to become incapacitated to the point where they can no longer make health care decisions for themselves. Accordingly, it is important for an individual to makes known his or her wishes when they are able to, by communicating those wishes to others.

Minnesota law allows individuals to do this through a health care directive, which is a written document that informs others of a person's wishes when it comes to health care. Under the health care directive, individuals can name a health care power of attorney, who can make decisions on the individual's behalf when they are no longer able to make these decisions personally.

In order to have a valid health care directive, the document must be in writing and have a date on the document. The document must also state the person's name and be signed by the individual, or someone who is authorized to sign for that individual. The signature must also typically be notarized or witnessed.

Aside from the above requirements, the health care directive also typically appoints an agent to make health care decisions for the individual. It further includes instructions about those health care choices, including specific information about certain situations that may arise in the health care setting.

While individuals do not have to have a health care directive, it can be a very useful tool to communicate one's wishes in the sensitive and important area of making health care decisions. Accordingly, individuals who wish to communicate their health care wishes should ensure they follow the requirements so that the document is legally recognized.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health, "Questions and answers about health care directives," accessed on April 3, 2015

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