LegalVault Blog

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Where are your advance directives?

A recent article in the New York Times highlights two major problems with advance directives: 1) the existence of these legal documents is often not known about by medical professionals or loved ones (and even if it is, the physical location of these might not be known) and 2) these documents can be rather ambiguous with vague or outdated language.

The author of the piece tells a troubling tale of an older gentleman suffering from dementia who had created an advance directive years earlier where he stated that while he wanted to remain comfortable, he did not want any “heroic” measures to save his life. Years after his advance directive was filed, the gentleman was hospitalized for a nosebleed and was later put on a ventilator and given a feeding tube for survival. These drastic measures seem to contradict the patient’s wishes, so why on earth were these treatments administered?

The answer is simple – his advance directive was buried away in his medical chart and none of his early doctors had noticed it, and his son who was calling the shots knew nothing of his fathers’ wishes.

This is an all too common scenario in emergency rooms where the goal of healthcare professionals is to keep patients alive and, without the proper paperwork, doctors are required by standing orders to take all necessary steps to do just that.

As an attorney, you stress the value of advance directives but you know all too well that they are only useful when they are accessible even before medical treatment commences. What tools do you provide to ensure that your clients’ doctors, and their loved ones, have access to these important documents in the event of an emergency?

LegalVault is a great tool which allows you to securely store all of your clients’ advance directives and estate planning documents. Here’s how it works:

  1. You create a secure account for each one of your clients.
  2. You upload all of the signed estate planning documents that you’ve prepared for your clients.
  3. LegalVault sends out an Emergency Access Wallet Card which contains instructions for healthcare providers on accessing healthcare-related documents online or via a 24/7 fax back service. This durable card also features your firm’s logo and contact information so your name becomes synonymous with peace of mind.
  4. Your clients can log in to their accounts to share documents with your firm and even upload copies of family keepsakes (photos, home videos, letters to children) to ensure these are passed down to younger generations.

Once an account has been created, LegalVault also provides your firm with a quick one-touch physician notification system which allows your firm to send a notice to your client’s primary care provider informing him or her of this invaluable service and the storage of advance directives. This ensures that a client’s important planning documents never fall to the back of a medical chart where they go unnoticed for weeks. 

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