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What is an Advance Directive and Do I Need One?

Posted by Dana Law Group on September 4, 2020

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An Introduction to Advance Directives

If you have begun to think about long-term plans, you may have already looked into funding a trust, writing a final will and testament, or taking out life insurance. However, not every contingency occurs after someone dies. You may encounter numerous challenging situations while you still live — situations that you are no longer in any condition to address at that time. Fortunately, you can prepare for these scenarios beforehand through preparation of instruments known as advance directives.

Advance Directive Definitions and Types

An advance directive is very much what the term suggests, a legally-binding statement of your wishes prepared in anticipation of a life-changing problem. Most advance directives fall into one of two categories:

  • Living will – A living will expresses and clarifies how you want family, friends, and medical personnel to respond when you face an end-of-life scenario. Its provisions become active if you go into a coma or become otherwise incapable of making your own end-of-life decisions. It can specify your wishes on whether you want special measures employed to extend your life, including the use of ventilator support, feeding tubes, or resuscitation equipment.
  • Healthcare power of attorney – A healthcare power of attorney (also referred to as a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare) assigns critical healthcare decisions to a particular agent named by you. This agent is tasked with making sure that your specific medieval directions and wishes are followed to the letter. It can go into effect, not just in an end-of-life situation, but in any situation that temporarily incapacitates you.

Why Advance Directives Matter

If you don’t have the appropriate advance directives prepared and ready to go into effect when needed, you may end up undergoing needless suffering or putting your loved ones through a drawn-out, financially devastating nightmare as medical professionals employ every possible measure to keep you alive for as long as possible. You also spare your loved ones the heartbreaking burden of making such end-of-life decisions for you on their own initiative.

Advance directives can also perform the opposite task of ensuring that someone else doesn’t curtail your life prematurely against your wishes. You may, in fact, want all available measures taken to remain alive without actually being able to express those wishes.

How to Obtain an Advance Directive

Although you may find certain living will forms and other documents available on a do-it-yourself basis, you should still consult an experienced estate attorney to make certain that you fill out these documents as accurately and thoroughly as possible. For your healthcare power of attorney agent, you can choose any individual over the age of 18 except for your physician or other healthcare team members. If you want to cancel an advance directive at a later date, you have the right to do so. But don’t put off this essential means of planning for the future — because you never know when your fortunes could change.

Ready to learn more about advance directives? Contact us today!