I am planning to travel abroad with friends, not family. I have a living will and a health care power of attorney naming my daughter as my agent. Are these documents still valid in another country?

Probably your health care power of attorney (hereinafter HCPOA) will be valid, but it may be difficult to reach your agent.  I suggest you name a traveling companion as a co-agent or alternate agent to act only when your daughter can’t be reached, but having all the same authority and discretion to make decisions on your behalf.  Your health care power of attorney should clearly spell out your desires under specific circumstances and allow the agent to have discretion. Many documents I review only address end of life situations. Your HCPOA should cover use of various treatments such as antibiotics, blood transfusions, dialysis and other restorative treatments.  Many foreign countries have excellent medical facilities and doctors. Other places you might travel may have very limited medical care available. If you have a known medical condition you might want to wear a medic alert bracelet. Be sure your traveling agent has a copy of your HCPOA and reads it so he or she knows your desires before a crisis strikes.  Your travel agent might be able to give you specifics for the countries you plan to visit with some consideration for your modes of transport.

Living trusts are defensive in nature dealing with wishes regarding removing life support that merely prolongs the dying process.  Often they create a potential conflict unknown to the signer that requires the terms of a living will to override his or her HCPOA just when the situation happens and gives decision making authority to two physicians, not the person named as your agent.    Also some people of faith might object to a hastening of death through pain medication. But many are in fact okay with pain medication that might hasten death as an acceptable side effect of reducing unbearable pain when death is inevitable, even if not immediate.  I like HCPOAs because they can and should be customized to the signer’s values and preferences, and include the substantive language for a declaration of a natural death so you only need one document. The HCPOA also involves your spokesperson at all stages of decision-making.

The agent who will make medical decisions when you are incompetent or unable to speak for yourself can be anyone, including significant others and non-family members you trust to implement your wishes.

Happy travels!

 

Disclaimer:  Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client.  No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column. 7/2019

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