What Is an Advance Directive?

Health Care Directive

One item that is absolutely vital to an ironclad estate plan is an advance directive. An advance directive spells out your wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that you become incapacitated or incapable of making your own decisions.

Definition of an Advance Directive

Also commonly called a healthcare directive or healthcare power of attorney, an advance directive is simply a document with written legal instructions on medical treatment. It only takes effect if you become incapable of making those decisions on your own, such as if you are put in a coma, become incapacitated, etc. The purpose is to help medical professionals and caregivers make the right choices regarding medical treatment.

Types of Advance Directives

Advance directives take a number of formats, and choosing the right one for you is largely a matter of your life circumstances and personal preference. The main types of advance directives include the following.

Living Will

A living will is something like your regular will, except that you leave instructions on how your healthcare should be handled in the event that you develop a terminal injury or illness. Your living will may cover such items as:

  • Tube feeding and artificial hydration
  • Assisted breathing
  • CPR and other forms of resuscitation
  • Comfort care
  • Other life-prolonging procedures
  • Wishes regarding organ and tissue donation

Health Care Power of Attorney

Health care power of attorney is an authorization for another person to make decisions on your behalf. Unlike a living will, power of attorney covers not only terminal disease and end-of-life scenarios but also situations in which you’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.

A healthcare power of attorney is best if you have someone you can trust to make decisions that are in line with what you’d want and that would be in your best interest.

Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration

Similar to a living will, a mental health treatment preference declaration gives instructions for your treatment if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. However, this form covers mental health treatment exclusively, such as the administration of psychotropic drugs or admission to a mental health care facility.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

A Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order is an order to refrain from administering CPR in the event that your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. A DNR order can be part of your advance directive or separate from your estate plan.

Advance Directives as Part of Your Estate Plan

Estate planning is all about taking care of your future and the future of your family and loved ones. To be truly prepared, you’ll need to plan for every eventuality, including if you become terminally ill, injured, or otherwise incapable of making your wishes known regarding medical treatment.

You might opt for only a living will or healthcare power of attorney, or you might include both in your estate plan. Having both can cover gaps in either one. For instance, if your living will doesn’t mention a particular type of treatment, a proxy with power of attorney can make a judgment call on your behalf.

For more information on creating an advance directive (or estate planning in general), contact Hart David Carson LLP today. We can help you get started with your estate plan.