What is an Advance Directive? And How Can it Benefit You and Your Family?

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Most family legal experts agree on the importance of an end-of-life plan. This often takes the form of an advance directive – a legal document spelling out your wishes regarding medical care should you become incapacitated and unable to decide on your own.

The directive should express, in very specific terms, the types of health care techniques and procedures you do and don’t want, should you be unable to make these decisions on your own. Importantly, by mapping your future healthcare initiatives in this manner, you’ll ensure that your loved ones know exactly what your desires are should that need ever arise. They won’t need to stressfully try to guess what you would have wanted.

This article will aim to help you understand what an advance directive is and what is required to get an advance directive in place. It is also important that you acquaint yourself with the laws governing them in your specific state of residence. And because of the complexities involved in end-of-life planning, it is often very wise to hire a reputable attorney to assist you with advanced directives. 

What is an Advance Directive?

Broadly speaking, an advance directive is a generic term for a variety of documents that express your healthcare preferences in the event that you are incapacitated in some fashion and cannot make these decisions on your own. But many people have heard of advance directives without really knowing what they entail. And with the wide variety of options available within the category of advance directives, the concept can be a little confusing. Read on to learn about the various types of advance directives. 

What Are the Different Types of Advance Directives?

There are a few different types of advance directives, but each of them is designed to inform the necessary parties about the forms of healthcare treatments you do and do not want to receive. The kinds of advance directives that are available depend on where you live, with each state having different laws that govern these end-of-life documents.

Despite these varying state laws, there are two types of advance directives that are available in virtually every state. These two types are the living will and the medical power of attorney.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is an essential part of your end-of-life planning. But what exactly does a living will entail?

First, a living will shouldn’t be confused with the type of will that transfers assets to chosen heirs upon someone’s death. In fact, living wills have nothing to do with possessions or assets at all. They’re something very different.

A living will is a legal document that communicates your end-of-life medical care preferences. Like all advance directives, a living will is designed to ensure that your wishes are carried out if you are no longer able to express them yourself. 

In most states, you can download or otherwise obtain ready made forms to create them. An attorney is not necessarily needed to fill out these forms, but they can sometimes of assistance.

Here are a few of the living will’s other features:

  • They’re sanctioned by the Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) of 1991. 
  • As a result of the PSDA, all healthcare providers are required to advise patients of their right to create advance directives. 
  • Some states have ‘living will registries’ that patients can use to make their wishes more easily available to healthcare providers. If your state has such a registry, it is strongly recommended that you file your living will. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, living wills may include a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) 
  • Living wills may forgo certain types of palliative care. 
  • They may also forgo the administration of food and water if delivered by invasive means such as tubes and other medical devices. 
  • They can only be implemented if the patient is incapacitated and cannot make decisions on their own. 
  • While a living certainly helps implement the wishes of a patient, they do have significant limitations, some of which can be rectified by the ‘medical power of attorney.’  

What is Medical Power of Attorney?

Typically, medical power of attorney is a supplement to a living will. It transfers decision-making power to another person (referred to as your agent) if the patient cannot make medical care decisions on their own. This person should be someone you have a deep trust for because they will have authority over important medical decisions. 

Here are some additional features of the medical power of attorney:

  • Depending on your state of residence, it may also be referred to as a healthcare proxy, patient advocate, or attorney-in-fact. 
  • If there are medical decisions that aren’t covered in a living will, the agent may make these decisions if the patient is incapacitated. 
  • The agent can access the patient’s medical records. 
  • The medical power of attorney allows the agent to hire or fire healthcare providers. 

Planning for The Future Now by Choosing a Burial Option

As we discussed in the preceding sections, advance directives are a key part of end-of-life planning. Not only do they help ensure that your medical care wishes are carried out regardless of your physical condition, they also reduce the burden of your loved ones after your death.

Choosing a burial option is another important part of your end-of-life planning. Similar to advance directives, choosing your own burial options ensures that your wishes be executed and reduces much of the stress of your loved ones trying to determine what you would have wanted during their time of grief.

Additionally, funerals, burial plots, and other factors associated with your end-of-life scenarios can be very expensive. Choosing your burial option in advance and thus locking in pre-inflation costs is significantly less expensive and can reduce the confusion and financial burden of your loved ones.

We hope this post proves helpful to you and your family. We also hope you’ll return to our site often to learn more important information about end-of-life planning and related subjects. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. 

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