What Are Advance Healthcare Directives and How Can They Help the Estate Planning Process?

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Elderly woman smiling

An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that details what kind of medical care you desire should you become incapacitated or unable to care for yourself. While no one can predict the future, it is best that you prepare for events such as you:

  • Falling into a coma
  • Becoming seriously injured
  • Being terminally ill
  • Developing severe dementia

The kind of treatment you would want will be listed in your advance healthcare directive. The advance directive could give orders regarding treatment for terminal illness or comas including orders to end life support. The advance directive could also give orders to your doctor regarding care you don’t want or care you’d like to receive no matter how ill you are.

Advance directives can also benefit your estate planning process. One type of advance directive is a living will. This legal document specified the treatment you want to receive should you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. This document, however, does not allow you to pick an individual to make decision for you. In order to select someone, an additional advance directive you’ll want to consider is a durable power of attorney for health care. A DPA for health care, also known as Medical Power of Attorney, allows you to select someone to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated.

End of life treatment can also be included as a part of an advance directive. These include:

  • Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Orders: When your heart stops or you stop breathing at the hospital, staff will try to treat you. You can use an advance directive to place a DNR order on your medical chart and doctors will not resuscitate you.
  • Ventilation: Machines are sometimes used to take over your breathing should you become too ill to breathe on your own. An advance directive can state if and how long you would like to use this ventilation, including shutting it off.
  • Tube Feeding: A feeding tube is put in your stomach or food is given through an IV should you become too ill to eat by yourself. With an advance directive, you can decide if and how long you’d like to be fed in this method.

If you’re interested in drafting some advance directives, make sure to meet with a lawyer in your area. The estate planning lawyers at Temmerman, Cilley, and Kohlmann, LLP have years of experience helping clients draft and file their advance directives. We can even help you change and update your advance directive as you need. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.