What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive, also known as a living will, is not to be confused with a living trust or a standard will. Both a living trust and a will (or last will and testament) concern the distribution of your assets after you’re gone. In contrast, a living will details how you wish to be treated medically, should you ever end up hospitalized and unable to speak for yourself.
In an advance directive, you can specify, among other choices:
- Whether you wish to receive CPA, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to revive your heart and keep it beating
- Whether you wish to be placed on a ventilator
- Whether you wish to undergo dialysis to remove waste from your system
- Whether you wish to receive antibiotics or antiviral medications
- Whether you wish to be artificially nourished or hydrated through IVs or tubes inserted through your nose
- Whether you wish to receive comfort care such as morphine and/or medications
- Whether you wish to be buried or cremated should you die
- Whether you wish to donate your organs once you’re gone
How an Advance Directive Works
An advance directive is basically a medical power of attorney, in which you name an agent, or attorney-in-fact, to carry out your wishes as specified in the document.
You should name someone you trust who knows you well and will honor your wishes. You can also name an alternate or alternates, should the first-named be unwilling or unable to perform the duties when you become incapacitated. The only person you cannot name is a health care provider unless that person is related to you.
Like any power of attorney, your advance directive must be signed by you when you are 18 years of age or older and witnessed by two others or notarized. It can be changed or canceled at any time. You should make sure that not only your appointed agent and any alternates, but also your family, loved ones, attorney, and physician have copies so that your wishes can be honored.
Start Planning for Your Future Today
An advance directive should be well thought out, not just rushed to print on a spur-of-the-moment impulse. Your end-of-life decisions are, of course, highly personal, but others are going to be affected by your choices. Accordingly, creating an advance directive should be part of a larger, more comprehensive estate planning review that takes into account the wishes and needs of your loved ones as well as your own.
If you or someone you know is contemplating an advance directive or wants to learn more about putting together a comprehensive estate plan for their future, contact The Elder & Disability Law Firm, APC today.