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What Should Be Included in an Advance Directive

Planning for the worst is challenging. Most of us would rather put off having conversations about what to do if we are incapacitated or how we wish to be cared for at the end of our lives. Preparing for these scenarios is so difficult one study estimates only one in three Americans ever completes an advance directive. But formulating an advance care directive is extremely important despite how hard it is to get started. 

At the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C., we understand how sensitive the topic of creating an advance directive can be. Our attorneys work through difficult questions with our clients and do our best to make the process easy and approachable. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

What Is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a legal document that allows you to state your preferences for future medical care. Advance directives ensure your choices are respected if you can not speak for yourself. Further, they are legally enforceable. In most cases, advance directives are composed of a durable medical power of attorney and a living will.

Who Needs an Advance Directive?

Tragedies happen. Anyone can become incapacitated and unable to make their own medical decisions. Thus any adult can benefit from putting in place an advance directive. However, some individuals are at greater risk and have a greater need for an advance directive. These individuals include:

  • Anyone with a chronic illness,
  • Anyone at high risk for a life-threatening illness,
  • Individuals working in a high-risk industry,
  • People who engage in risky recreational activities, and
  • Older individuals.

The higher your risk profile, the more likely it is that you will benefit from an advance directive in the future.  

What to Include in an Advance Directive

There are several considerations you should include in any advance care directive. The more in-depth your directive is, the better able you will be to control how you are cared for.

Who You Want to Make Medical Decisions for You

Choosing a healthcare proxy is one of your most critical decisions. It is vital to pick someone you trust to have your best interests at heart. You should also have an in-depth discussion about your preferences with whoever you appoint. The documents should clearly identify your healthcare proxy and include up-to-date contact information. Further, it should delineate the decisions they can and can not make for you.

An Alternative Decision Maker

Your advance directive should include at least one alternative to your healthcare proxy. Any backup needs to be trustworthy and competent as well. Make sure to discuss your healthcare preferences with them too.

A List of People Who You Do Not Want Making Medical Decisions for You

Some people have strong opinions about who should not make decisions for them. If you are one of these people, including a list of those who can not make decisions for you in your advance directive is advisable. Doing so will ensure that any decisions do not default to them if others are unavailable.

Your Preferences Regarding Life Support

The decision of whether to be kept on life support is a personal one. When planning, you should consider several factors, such as whether you will be in pain and the financial ramifications of each course of action. Clearly state the circumstances in which you would want to remain on life support and describe when you would like to be taken off.

Your Preferences Regarding Care If You Are Not on Life Support

You should also consider the type of care you want to receive if you are not on life support. For example, if you are irrevocably incapacitated and in pain, would you want medical staff to resuscitate you if your heart stops?

Procedures You Wish to Avoid

Some people do not want to undergo specific procedures for religious reasons. Others are afraid of the added pain a procedure might cause. Whatever your reasons, include any medical operations you wish to avoid in your advance directive.

Where You Would Prefer to Live Out Your Last Days

Sometimes, people are given the option of where they wish hospice care to occur. Whether you want to be in a hospital surrounded by medical staff or in the peaceful confines of your home, you should indicate it in your directive.

Where and How You Wish to Be Laid to Rest

An advance directive should also include information regarding how you wish your remains to be treated when you pass. Some people want to be buried in a specific burial plot. Others want their families to decide. Providing guidance in an advance directive can help ease the grieving process for your loved ones.

Information Regarding Religious Rites You Wish to Be Performed

If you wish for any religious rites to be performed once you pass, it is important to say so. Your advance directive can include information regarding your faith and who you want to carry out any ceremonies.

Anything Else You Feel Is Pertinent

An advance directive is a document laying out your wishes. Work with an attorney to ensure that the document captures everything that is important to you.

When and How to Update an Advance Care Directive

Updating an advance directive as your needs and preferences change is as essential as creating the document in the first place. Many consider reviewing these legal documents annually to be a best practice. Further, you should update your directive after any significant life event, such as having children, getting married, or getting divorced.

To change an advance directive, you must create and distribute a new set of documents to the relevant parties. Discussing the updates with your primary and alternate healthcare proxies is also essential. Working with an experienced elder law attorney can significantly ease the process of updating your advance directive.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin P.C. Can Help

If you need help writing or reviewing an advance care directive, the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin knows how to help. Our experienced attorneys can help you enact a comprehensive strategy covering all your most pressing needs. We will give you the peace of mind to know your medical wishes will be carried out. Schedule a consultation today.

Author Photo

Andrew Lamkin is principal in the law firm of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., where he focuses his practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning and special needs planning, including Wills and Trusts, Medicaid planning, estate administration and residential real estate transactions. He is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.

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