Everything You Need to Know About Advance Directives

An advance directive is a written record a person makes regarding their wishes for medical treatment. Many times, this document includes a living will and power of attorney, granting a trusted family member or other loved one the authority to make decisions in the person’s stead. Advance directives are used in cases where the patient is incapacitated physically or mentally, or otherwise incapable of communicating their wishes to a medical professional. In the event that the patient’s family does not know how they wish to proceed regarding treatment, this document becomes essential. Here is some background information as you get started planning for future medical needs.

What are the different types of advance directives?

Advance directive laws vary by state, but they generally include specific instructions about how the patient chooses to go forward with healthcare decisions. A living will is one of the most basic forms, and it specifies what is to be done if a person has a terminal illness or is in a persistent vegetative state. It details which life-prolonging measures are to be allowed, such as feeding tubes, dialysis and artificial life support. The document typically has to be signed in front of a disinterested witness (not a spouse, potential heir, or doctor, for example) and notarized.

Durable power of attorney is another type of advance directive. It authorizes a person to act as the patient’s proxy in all healthcare decisions. Because a living will only covers a specific set of circumstances, a durable power of attorney is often considered a better option because the person named is able to handle any situation that might arise. Always discuss your wishes in detail with the person you wish to name as your proxy to ensure that they are prepared to act in your stead.

A Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR, is a special type of advance directive in which a patient makes it clear that they do not wish to be revived if their heart or breathing stops. Patients may have to ask for a new DNR each time they are admitted to the hospital, and some states allow for a non-hospital DNR in cases when the patient might be resuscitated by paramedics. For more information about different types of advance directives, consult an estate planning attorney.

How do I create an advance directive?

Some states recognize oral directives given by the patient as long as they are made in the presence of a witness and written down. However, it is best to consult an estate planning lawyer to help you formally draft a living will or durable power of attorney for the sake of clarity and peace of mind. You may revoke a living will whenever you choose, and several states require you to renew it periodically.

Making long-term decisions that affect you and your family is often difficult, but with the right information you can make the choice that is best for you. Consult trusted Queens probate lawyer Richard Cary Spivack today, and go forward with confidence.