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What are Advanced Directives?

Senior Couple signing estate planning documents

As we grow older and start to think about what life will look like in the future, there are many decisions that need to be made, especially if we want to do the best we can for our families. Most people know about preparing a will, but what happens if you get sick? Who makes decisions for you? This can be handled using advance directives. 

What are Advance Directives?

Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to dictate your end-of-life care ahead of time. They allow you to relay your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later. There are two kinds of advance directives: a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare. 

Living Will

With a living will, your religious choices, spiritual beliefs, healthcare preferences, and anything else related to your care are described in detail. This document is a blueprint of your wishes, should it ever be required. It is essentially a written record of how you would like your family and doctors can care for you when the time comes. It can dictate how aggressive you would like to be when it comes to end of life care. 

Some procedures that may be covered under a living will include tube feeding, CPR, and mechanical ventilation. Again, it is important to be thorough in your choices. An experienced estate planning attorney will also be able to answer your questions about this document.

Durable Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document which allocates the right to make certain decisions on another’s behalf by appointing an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” The individual retains the right to make decisions on their own. A power of attorney can be limited in scope to making either financial or health care decisions on the individual’s behalf. However, a durable power of attorney can include a much broader set of powers that are not limited to certain areas. A power of attorney can limit authority to make decisions to a specific amount of time or circumstances. It is executed outside of court and does not need a judge to sign off on it. In an emergency or sudden loss of competency, it is important to have a plan in place to ensure that your loved ones can move quickly to make decisions for you that may have serious impacts on your physical or financial health. In an emergency, there the time it would take to secure another way to grant authority over your assets and health may make a big difference. The person must be in a proper state of mind in order to grant power of attorney or it is not valid. A power of attorney expires should you become mentally incompetent.

A durable power of attorney includes wording that makes it effective should you become incompetent. The purpose of durable power of attorney is to plan for medical emergencies or cognitive decline or other situations where you are no longer capable of making your own decisions. A power of attorney is a valuable tool that allows a person to appoint the person of their choosing to the role.

You may also include things like a “Do Not Resuscitate” order in your advance directives, as well as any organ donations you would like to provide. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you make these important decisions and guide you through the process. 

Consider Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

It is generally a good idea to consult with an attorney when determining the best estate plan for you. The dedicated estate planning lawyers at The Mattar Firm can educate and guide you. Call us today to attend a free workshop or set up a consultation. 239-222-2222.


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