Planning for Incapacity - Advanced Directives

Advance healthcares directives are used to instruct others regarding the medical care that you would like to receive should you find yourself in a position where you cannot communicate your own wishes regarding same.


There are two specific types of healthcare directive that should be considered as part of your estate plan, each with differing features. These are Living Wills and Healthcare Powers of Attorney.


A Living Will is a legal document by which you can instruct healthcare providers with regard to your wishes about the use or non-use of certain life-prolonging medical procedures in the event that you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious and unable to communicate your wishes.


For many, the purpose of a Living Will is to document their wish that life-sustaining treatment, including artificially or technologically supplied nutrition and hydration, be withheld or withdrawn if they are unable to make medical decisions on their own behalf and are suffering from a terminal illness or are in a permanent state of unconsciousness from which they are unlikely to recover.


The manner in which a Living Will works is quite straightforward. In most states, two doctors must personally examine you and agree that medical procedures will only prolong the dying process. If both doctors agree that this is the case, then certain medical procedures may be withdrawn or withheld, depending on the contents of your Living Will. Of course, the withdrawal of these procedures will result in death. However, it should be noted that Living Wills can also be used to instruct attending physicians to use all possible means and treatments to keep you alive.


Other names sometimes found for living wills include ‘instructions’, ‘directive to physicians’, ‘declaration’ and ‘advance medical directive’.


A Living Will is a fundamental part of estate planning and features in the vast majority of estate plans. For more information on Living Wills, read some of the other Living Will articles on this website.



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