The Best Sources for Massachusetts Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney Forms
If you've decided it's time to prepare documents directing your health care, congratulations. It may be challenging to think about the kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want at the end of life, but your completed forms are almost guaranteed to bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones.
To get started, you'll need the right forms to fill out. In Massachusetts, that means obtaining forms for a Health Care Proxy (often called a Health Care Power of Attorney) and Living Will (Personal Wishes Statement).
Understanding Advance Directives in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is one of only three states that doesn't have a statute authorizing Living Wills. (For the curious, the others are New York and Michigan.) Even so, it's important to write down your health care wishes. Federal law guarantees your right to direct your own medical care, and that includes stating whether you want to be placed on life support when death is near.
A Living Will can provide powerful direction for both your health care agent and treatment providers. The document could also be critical in the event that a court has to step in and order care for you. In Massachusetts, Living Will instructions are often spelled out in a document called a Personal Wishes Statement.
Because Massachusetts law isn't 100% clear on your right to make a Living Will, it's extra important that you make a Health Care Proxy. That's the document that allows you to name someone -- called your health care agent -- to make health care decisions for you. Doctors must follow your agent's directions, as long as they are medically reasonable and in alignment with your known wishes.
About the Massachusetts Health Care Proxy and Personal Wishes Statement
In Massachusetts, your health care forms will help you do the following:
Name your health care agent. The Massachusetts Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint your health care agent (sometimes called an "attorney-in-fact") who will speak for you if you become too ill to speak for yourself. You can name a first choice and an alternate, in case your first pick becomes unable to serve. Your agent will have broad power to make health care decisions for you unless you write down any specific limitations when you complete your form.
Specify your health care wishes. For a Living Will, many Massachusetts sources recommend the Personal Wishes Statement published by Better Endings and UMass Memorial Health Care. It is a one page document you can use to spell out your feelings about the kind of care you want if you are too ill or injured to speak for yourself and there is no reasonable hope that you will recover. You may also use another Living Will form, if you prefer.
What the forms don't cover. Massachusetts's health care forms do not provide sections to cover issues that many people consider to be important, such as:
- naming a primary physician to oversee your care
- specifiying your wishes for organ donation and giving your health care agent the power to carry them out
- extending your health care agent's power to cover other post-death matters, including authorizing an autopsy or arranging for burial or cremation, and
- nominating your agent to serve as your court-appointed guardian to handle all matters related to your personal comfort and care, should that become necessary.
If these or other issues concern you, you should write them into your form, or consult an experienced lawyer who can help you tailor documents to meet your needs.
When to Get a Lawyer's Help
Health care forms are specially designed so you can complete them on your own, or with input as needed from your doctor or other health care advisers. That said, if you feel more comfortable enlisting a lawyer to make or review your documents, you should seek help from a qualified estate planning attorney.
For more information about hiring a lawyer to make your documents, including situations when a lawyer's help may be particularly useful, see Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?