The Importance of Advance Directives for LBGT Folks

Part of the Same-Sex Legal Kit For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The term advance directives describes certain legal documents that let you state in writing — before you become injured or ill — your wishes as to who you want to make medical and financial decision for you and what medical treatment (if any) you want performed when you're unable to speak for yourself.

Advance directives documents are particularly important for same-sex partners and even single LGBT people because hospital policy and the law often give preference to your legal relatives over your partner and other members of your family of choice. With advance directives, you can give your loved ones the power and authority they need to make decisions for you and to be at your side during your time of need.

Whether you're single or in a relationship, it's essential for your healthcare providers and your loved ones to understand your wishes regarding what medical treatment, if any, you desire in a variety of circumstances. Only then can they be sure they're making decisions that reflect your desires.

For the most part, advance directives consist of the following documents:

  • Medical power of attorney: This document lets you name your partner or someone else you trust to make your medical decisions if you're unable to make them yourself.

  • Durable power of attorney for finances (DPOA): This document gives you the right to appoint an agent or attorney-in-fact (someone you trust to pay your bills, write checks on your account, buy and sell property, make investments, and so on) while you're mentally incompetent (suffering from a debilitating mental illness or disease that prevents you from managing your own affairs) — whether or not you will recover.

  • Living will: This legal document allows you to make known what medical treatment you want performed — if any — when you're in a vegetative state, in a coma, or when you're at the end of your life with little or no hope of recovery.

  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order: A DNR lets you tell medical personnel not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or take other measures to revive you if your heart stops or if you stop breathing. If your advance directives don't include a DNR order, ask your doctor to write one for you.

You can get state specific advance directives free online from Rainbow Law or have a local gay or gay-friendly attorney draw them up.

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Same-Sex Legal Kit For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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