Why Would I Need Advance Directives?

Advance directives
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Advance health care directives are a vital component of incapacity planning.

It never hurts to be prepared.

This statement rings true whether you are studying for a test, dressing for the weather forecast, or getting food ready for family gatherings.

Preparation is also necessary for unexpected events like accidents, injuries, or illness.

In short, the Boy Scouts are onto something with the motto “Be Prepared!”

How can one prepare for unexpected events?

Estate planning, which includes incapacity planning, can better protect you and your loved ones.

Whether incapacity strikes suddenly or develops from a steady decline in health, having the right legal documents in place can reduce stress and confusion around medical decisions.

Such situations benefit from advance health care planning.

Advance directives help prepare for incapacity.
While studying helps people prepare for tests, advance directives help people prepare for possible incapacity.

For starters, what is advanced health care planning?

It is the process of documenting and discussing your health care wishes with your health care providers and your loved ones.

Boom.

That is it.

Not surprisingly, an advance health care directive is a particularly helpful component of advance health care planning.

What is an advance health care directive?

This legal document outlines and expresses your desires for medical care should you ever be unable to communicate them directly to health care providers.

Does mental health treatment fall under the purview of advance directives?

Yep.

If people wish to specify directions for psychiatric care, they can do so.

Why do you need an advance health care directive?

Without one, you will be powerless to communicate your wishes for treatment or end-of-life care during incapacity.

Consequently, the health care providers may take actions you oppose or refuse treatments you desire.

Yikes!

You will also leave loved ones confused or conflicted about what you would want.

Internal and external struggles can lead to feelings of guilt and family rifts for generations.

Double yikes!

Several individual documents fall under the categorization of advance directives.

What are the types of advance health care directives?

Our advance health care directive is two pages long in our law practice.

The first page is the health care treatment directive, and the second is the durable power of attorney for health care decisions.

We have successfully used this approach for more than 30 years.

So, how do these two pages function?

Health Care Treatment Directive.

A health care treatment directive outlines the specific treatments and medical care you would like (or would want to forego) if you cannot communicate these desires to the doctors when decisions need to be made.

It essentially gives direction to health care providers about your wishes.

A variation of this document is known as a “living will” in many jurisdictions.

Durable power of attorney for health care decisions.

A health care power of attorney functions differently than a health care treatment directive.

Rather than outlining specific treatment wishes, a health care power of attorney gives legal authority to one or more persons to make medical decisions on your behalf and discuss treatment options with your physician.

The person named is often called your health care agent or proxy.

How do you choose a healthcare agent?

Because this is a significant responsibility, you should only choose someone who has proven trustworthy.

It can also be beneficial to select someone with similar beliefs and discuss your wishes regarding health care treatments and end-of-life care.

People commonly ask whether advance health care directive forms can be found online.

The answer is yes.

Various national hospitals and palliative care organizations provide forms online for free.

Often, they can be completed online or printed and filled out by hand.

Although this may seem convenient, the proper steps must be taken to ensure legal authority when needed.

For example, in some states (e.g., Missouri), a durable power of attorney for health care documents must be notarized, and in others (e.g., Kansas), it only needs to be witnessed.

It is essential to know the requirements for lawful execution, or your document may not be effective when needed.

To ensure your documents will be effective in your time of need, working with an experienced estate planning attorney can afford you the greatest peace of mind.

For example, to help ensure acceptance across state lines, our advance health care directive provides for both two witnesses and a notary when executed.

Can advance health care directives be changed?

Certainly.

People can change their directives for many reasons.

They may find their original health care agent preceded them in death or may learn of a newly developed medical treatment.

After updating your documents properly, you should inform loved ones and health care providers of your changes.

When I meet with individuals, couples, and families in my office in Overland Park, Kansas, I find many people have similar questions regarding advance health care directives.

What are some of these frequently asked questions?

First, people wonder how an advance health care directive differs from a last will and testament.

The former focuses on medical issues during incapacity, while the last will governs property after death.

Second, people ask if advance health care directives govern tissue and organ donation.

While you can express your desire to be an organ or tissue donor in your directives, you should also register with the national organ donation program.

In our practice, we prepare a separate legal document to specific whether a client intends to be a donor, what to donate, for what purpose, and to whom.

We call it the anatomical gift declaration.

Third, people ask where to store their directive documents.

Because these documents will be required in the event of a sudden accident or illness, they should be stored somewhere accessible with a copy in your medical file.

You should also provide copies to your doctor, health care agent, and loved ones.

In conclusion, advance health care directives are legal documents governing wishes for medical care, end-of-life care, and mental health treatment.

They are essential for ensuring your choices are honored and avoiding confusion.

Although directives can be found online or changed at any time, it is best to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the documents and changes adhere to the laws of your state.

While advance health care directives are not the most exciting gift to give yourself and your loved ones this Christmas, they can bring great comfort and peace in the future.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice concerning any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., and the reader.

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