An advance directive can be described as a broad term that encompasses living wills, medical powers of attorney, and other documents. These documents provide instructions for your medical care in the event that you are unable or unwilling to consent to any medical procedure. A advance directive is only valid if you have the ability to communicate.
Do-not-resuscitate instructions, comfort care preferences, and organ donation instructions are just a few examples of directives. These directives might be requested by your doctor before you undergo any risky procedures or surgeries. You might also share your directives with your providers in an effort to let them know your preferences.
While these documents might have different legal requirements depending upon where you live, their primary purpose is to allow you greater control over your medical care and enable you to advocate for yourself in an emergency.
What types of advance directives exist?
Living wills can specify the medical treatment that you would like or not want if you’re unable to do so. This document’s legal binding status is determined by state law. It can also be used to grant power of attorney to another person.
The U.S. has legalized advance directives. This means that doctors must honor your wishes. They can still refuse to perform certain procedures if they have the documentation and the state law allows it.
Living wills may include instructions for ventilation, comfort care, resuscitation, feeding tubes, comfort, and organ or medical research donation postmortem.
You may need to be more specific depending on your medical situation. While your living will is a guideline, you may want to add more detail if you are at high risk of cardiac arrest, don’t want CPR performed or strongly believe in organ donation.
Health care proxy or medical power of attorney
A power of attorney, or health care proxy, gives someone trusted — and perhaps a backup — the authority to make your decisions.
Many states have restrictions on living wills. It’s important that you prepare another legal document to name someone who can make medical decisions for your needs if you are unable to communicate. This is particularly important if your medical needs change or you are in a situation where your living will does not cover.
The American Bar Association offers a free form that can be downloaded. It is binding in all 50 states, except Indiana, New Hampshire and Ohio.
The person you designate will serve as your advocate when you are in need of medical assistance, and will use your living will to guide them. This person should be someone you can trust to make your best decisions.
It is a good idea to have a backup proxy to call in an emergency. Also, it’s a good idea to discuss your documents with them in advance to make sure they are aware of any other documents.
Combine your power of attorney and living will documents to streamline your medical directives.
Five Wishes is a popular option in the United States. It was created by Aging with Dignity, a non-profit organization. You can complete it online. It includes provisions for all 50 US states.
It contains the following directives:
I want someone to make my care decisions when I’m unable: This is your health care proxy/power of attorney document.
What kind of medical treatment do I want? How you want to live.
How comfy I want to feel: My preferences for pain management, hospice, and grooming.
I want people to treat my like this: This includes visitation preferences such a prayer, touch, and location.
What I wish my loved ones know: This includes burial preferences, wishes for mourning, and how you would like to be remembered.
How do I make an advance directive
An attorney can assist you in writing your advance medical directives if you are working with them to create an estate plan. You don’t actually need an attorney to do this. Your directive will become legally valid once you sign it before the required witnesses (though these requirements may vary from one state to another span>).
Estate planning software can be used to create a living will or power of attorney document. You can also print the forms directly from a website. You should ensure that the product you select explains how to legally make the document binding for your state, and offers all options.
AARP is an interest group for over-50s. Everplans, a service that organizes important documents, offers links to forms for each state.
Five Wishes has an interactive, printable version of their directive that costs $5, and an online version that costs $15.
Prepare For Your Care is an online resource that assists people in making medical decisions. It offers clear instructions with specific questions about you and your life.
Once you have completed the forms, you can give them to your doctor, your attorney, and close family members. You can also keep extra copies safe. For emergency access, ask your doctor to add your forms to your electronic medical record.
How do I change an advance directive
As long as you’re able, advance directives can be modified at any time. You should create a new directive using exactly the same process as your original documents. You should notify your attorney, family members, and doctor with the updated information. Then destroy the original documents.
You can register your advance directive in certain states. To make any changes, you will need to register a new form. However, it is optional to register a form.
You should review your advance directive every ten years or whenever you have a new medical condition or change in marital status.
State-by-state advance directive laws
Each state has its own laws regarding living wills and power-of- attorney. Five Wishes, for example, meets all legal requirements in order to make an advance directive in every state except Texas, New Hampshire and Ohio. You will need to complete an additional statutory form in these states.
You should ensure that you only download forms relevant to your state. This can be done by your attorney or estate planning software. In certain states, you will need a witness to sign the documents or have them notarized.