What is an Advance Health Care Directive?

You have the right to make decisions about your own health care. An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal document that outlines your wishes about your own health care and lets you name someone else to make those decisions when you cannot.

While an advanced directive will vary from person to person and situation to situation, there are common components that individuals who aren’t sure where to start may want to consider including:

Agent: Many advance directives name a substitute person or "Agent" for you. This individual may be listed as having the power to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so or the dvance directive may include a set of instructions that the Agent should follow if it becomes necessary to make medical decisions for you.

Life-Sustaining Treatment: Many choose to include detailed wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining treatments. In fact, the advance directive can be quite detailed, outlining various types of life-sustaining treatments and whether or not they should be accepted or refused in different situations. For instance, some will list very specific instructions related to organ or tissue donation, wishes not to be revived if their heart or breathing stops, etc.

Life Support: Individuals who include an Advance Health Care Directive in their estate plan often include their wishes regarding the use of life support in situations such as serious illnesses without a cure, comas with little chance of improvement, long-term, degenerative illness with no chance of improvement, etc.

The Advance Health Care Directive is a powerful tool. Families can approach decisions with more peace knowing which treatment their loved one prefers. Health care professionals can more quickly and appropriately provide the best care for the situation at hand without unnecessary delays while families struggle to decide on the next step. Without an advance directive, a family may have to file a petition in the Probate Court to appoint a "conservator" to make those critical medical decisions.

During times of extreme emotional duress, loved ones can take great comfort in the fact that care is outlined in an Advance Health Care Directive. Don’t wait until the need arises. Act now so you’re prepared for every situation. Consult one of the experienced estate planning attorneys at Dolen, Tucker, Tierney & Abraham. We have the knowledge and experience you want on your side.

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