What Do I Need to Know About an Advanced Health Care Directive?

Law Office of Robert L. Firth April 15, 2020

What is an advanced health care directive? Do I need one? These are frequently asked questions that our firm hears often. Below, our Cathedral City estate planning lawyer clears up some common misconceptions about advanced health care directives (ADHD). He also discusses what you need to know about these estate planning documents to make an informed decision.

What Is an Advanced Health Care Directive?

An advanced health care directive (AHCD) refers to legal documents that take effect in the event that you become incapacitated. In other words, these documents can express your wishes if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

Creating an AHCD requires planning ahead. You must determine your medical preferences for certain situations. This can include deciding treatment options or medical interventions in advance.

One way to implement these wishes is by enumerating them in writing. Alternatively, an AHCD also allows you to appoint a medical power of attorney. This means that your designated proxy will handle medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot. In this situation, you will want to inform your representative of your preferences so that they can act accordingly on your behalf. Usually, your AHCD will set forth the guidelines that you want your health care agent to follow. For example, no CPR in the event of advanced dementia, or no feeding tube in the event you are in a permanent coma with no hope of recovery.

Who Needs an Advanced Health Care Directive?

Many people believe that only senior citizens need an advanced health care directive, but this is not true. An AHCD protects you in the event that you can’t make medical decisions for yourself. Severe injury or disease can leave anyone incapacitated. It is never a bad idea to prepare for the unexpected, regardless of age. Our Cathedral City estate planning lawyer can help you get started.

How Do I Set up An Advanced Health Care Directive?

You can set up an AHCD as a part of your estate plan. Advanced health care directive documents found within estate plans commonly include:

  • Living will. In a living will, you have the option to approve or decline medical procedures in advance. This can include preferences about CPR, use of a ventilator machine, tube feeding, IV hydration and comfort care. These written decisions only take effect in the event that you are not mentally capable of making your own decisions at the time.

  • Medical power of attorney. This estate planning document can be supplemental to a living will or a stand-alone document. In California, it is an “all in one” document that combines the living will with the medical power of attorney. A medical power of attorney is beneficial if you become incapacitated unexpectedly. Ideally, a trusted representative will have a more holistic understanding of your values and preferences. This person can then make informed choices on your behalf in unexpected situations.

Prepare for The Future with Our Cathedral City Estate Planning Lawyer

The drafting of an advanced health care directive is a serious matter. You want to consult with your loved ones as well as your doctor in order to make the right decisions for your own situation. At the same time, advanced health care directives can be complex documents. Our estate planning attorney in Palm Springs can help you navigate the legal side of an AHCD. Ensure the protection of your wishes and contact our firm for a free consultation.