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An examination of health care directives in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, those who feel very strongly about the type of medical care that should be provided in the event of their mental and/or physical incapacity have the option of executing what is known as a health care directive.

In general, this legally binding document allows a person to either 1) communicate their exact wishes concerning the medical care they wish to receive should they become unable to communicate with health care providers or 2) appoint an agent to make decisions on their behalf  should they become unable to communicate with health care providers.     

While the failure to execute a health care directive certainly doesn't mean that health care providers won't provide treatment in the event of incapacity, having such a document in place can ensure they administer care in the manner you want and help prevent any legal disagreements among family members concerning care.

While there are forms available to help people create legally binding health care directives, their use is not mandatory. Indeed, Minnesota law considers health care directives valid provided the following elements are satisfied:

  • It must be in writing, dated and signed by either you (or someone authorized to sign on your behalf) when you are able to fully comprehend and communicate your wishes concerning health care.
  • It must outline instructions regarding health care and/or appoint an agent to make decisions on your behalf.  
  • It must be verified by either two witnesses or a notary public.

It is important to note that health care directives executed elsewhere that either meet that state's requirements and/or Minnesota's requirement will be honored and enforced (with the exception of any provisions concerning assisted suicide).

Furthermore, most legal experts encourage those considering the execution of a health care directive to speak with their provider to ensure that they fully understand and appreciate the gravity of their decisions.

This topic will continue to be explored in future posts ...

A highly skilled attorney can walk you through all aspects of creating a comprehensive estate plan from a simple will or revocable trust to a guardianship or health care directive.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health, "Questions and answers about health care directives," Accessed Oct. 27, 2014

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