An Advance Health Care Directive is a document (or series of documents) that allows you to let your doctor and loved ones know about your health preferences. This is often medically necessary because in some cases, you will be unable to alert physicians about your wishes yourself, and having them written down in “advance” of that time will ensure that your wishes are nonetheless carried out in the way you specified.
An Advance Health Care Directive may consist of more than one document. Generally, to make your health care wishes known, you’ll need two legal forms: the Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will. The Living Will is essential for legally letting others know about your wishes; the Power of Attorney for Health Care will essentially grant others permission to carry your wishes out. Put together, all of these documents constitute what is known as an Advance Health Care Directive.
In short, a Living Will is a document that will specify the care you would like to receive if you are somehow rendered incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself. It should contain information regarding specific scenarios, such as whether or not you want to use lifesaving measures if you are incapacitated to some degree.
Using a Living Will doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to make your own medical decisions – as long as you are at full capacity to do so. But having one in place will allow you to speak for yourself even when you’re medically incapable of doing just that.
While a Living Will states what you would like to happen in the event that you become incapacitated, the Power of Attorney for Health Care will help ensure that these wishes can be carried out by someone you trust. Because they will need a degree of legal permission in order to make decisions on your behalf, Power of Attorney for Health Care can grant them those certain (and usually limited) powers. Essentially, a Power of Attorney is a “signatory” power. Its usage in the medical world, of course, is complex and in the event of your medical incapacitation, you should only assign these powers to someone you trust.
The Advance Health Care Directive is something you can use to handle any and all questions relating to your medical incapacitation; in essence, the directive is a comprehensive strategy that you can outline. If you want to take care of all of these advance health care issues at once, the Advance Health Care Directive is probably your ideal choice.
You are free to choose whomever you want to represent you in the case of your incapacitation; however, it’s highly recommended that you entrust a close friend or family member with the responsibility of carrying out your wishes.
Aside from the issues already addressed in the answers about Living Wills and the Power of Attorney for Health Care, there will be a couple of other decisions you need to make now if you want to have a full and complete Advance Health Care Directive. Here are a few important ones:
Essentially, you will have the power to customize what happens to you after medical incapacitation. But it’s important that you take time to think these out before completing your full Advance Health Care Directive.
If you never become medically incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself before you pass, your Advance Health Care Directive will never “kick in,” and therefore will not have any enforceability. Because the Advance Health Care Directive deals with what you want to happen in certain instances, it follows that if those circumstances never arrive, there will never be any need to enforce the directive.
However, it is important to remember that as long as the Advance Health Care Directive is properly signed and witnessed, it will indeed become enforceable upon your incapacitation.
The Advance Health Care Directive has a few key requirements to be recognized as valid. First, it must be legally and willingly signed by you, often known as the “author.” In forms this important, you’ll generally be required to have a few witnesses present to confirm the fact that you’ve signed the directive freely and willingly.
Additionally, your Advance Health Care Directive will need to conform to your state’s laws in order to be considered fully valid; it’s not enough to use a “one-size-fits-all” form when each state’s laws regarding health care directives are different.
Once validly signed and witnessed, your Advance Health Care Directive will be ready for use should you become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself because of medical issues. Though the directive itself will always be valid until then, it’s important to remember that it is not truly “effective” until the circumstances it details actually take place. At this point, the Advance Health Care Directive will be fully effective and enforceable.
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