While some states have enacted marriage equality laws, others are not offering the same rights and privileges to same-sex couples. In either situation, however, most estate planning lawyers can tell you that there are still important steps to take in protecting your rights to make medical decisions for your partner. In Cary, as in other places, it all starts with a power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney is used to specifically name the person who can make your medical decisions when you are unable. Sometimes this document may be referred to as a health care proxy. By naming your same-sex partner, you are providing him or her with the legal rights needed to step up and make those choices. In cases where a durable power of attorney for healthcare has not been created, it is not unheard of for the same-sex partner to be barred from the room while the patient’s parents or siblings are given the responsibility of making medical decisions.
There is other documentation that can help in the process as well. A marriage certificate or proof of a domestic partnership may be required by some hospitals. Your attorney can help ensure that you have all of the appropriate paperwork in place, including a financial power of attorney. While this document does not necessarily extend to making medical decisions, it does allow your partner to pay bills, work with insurance companies, and take care of other financial obligations that may arise while you are ill and incapacitated.
Finally, work with your estate planning attorney to put together a living will or advance directive for both you and your same-sex partner. While you certainly want to be able to make medical decisions for one another, it is most important to be sure that you are actually following one another’s wishes. An advance directive can help to describe your wishes in cases where you are not able to share them yourself. For example, what are your feelings regarding life-support or do you have a preference on end-of-life care.
By laying your plans out clearly, you protect your partner from having to make very difficult decisions and also assure that other family members cannot override your wishes. Your estate planning lawyer will go over your options in-depth so you have a comprehensive document that looks after the rights of both you and your partner.