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In Illinois, can my estranged spouse, despite our pending divorce, decide when a doctor should stop treating me? In other words, can my soon-t0-be ex decide when to “pull the plug”?
One of the legal documents we should all have is an Illinois power of attorney for health care. This document allows you to designate a person of your choice to make basic life and death decisions during a last illness in regards to how much extraordinary care a doctor or hospital should give you in the final stages of life.
Without the appointment of a health care agent, your spouse, despite going through a divorce, has the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf concerning your health care if you are incapacitated (see the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act).
Once divorced by an Illinois Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, your ex-spouse's authority to make health care decisions for you ends. This is true even if you had designated your now ex-spouse as your agent under the Illinois Power of Attorney for Health Care Act before your divorce. Moreover, your spouse can no longer act as your agent under an Illinois power of attorney for health care. Your ex-spouse is treated as though he or she has predeceased you. The same occurs if you are legally separated from your spouse by a Judgment for Legal Separation. However, if your marriage ends by annulment or a Judgment of Invalidity of Marriage, your Illinois power of attorney for health care is not revoked (see 755 ILCS 45/2-6).
Among the many Illinois divorce laws, it is important to familiarize yourself with the effects a divorce, legal separation, or annulment may have on a will or estate plan. Particularly, if you are a high net worth person or high income person, you should plan to change your power of attorney for health care, along with your estate plan, as soon as you know you are divorcing.The Illinois divorce laws discussed above are not solely contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Therefore, the knowledgeable and experienced DuPage County divorce lawyers at Martoccio & Martoccio, who have had many years of practice and familiarity with all of the laws that impact Illinois divorce laws, are available to help you. A working knowledge of divorce, as well as income tax law and many other areas of law, help make our lawyers the very best Illinois divorce lawyers. Call us today at 630-920-8855.