What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a legal document to ensure that decisions about medical treatment are followed when an individual becomes incapacitated. Such documents identify what to do specifically when an individual cannot make choices and are valuable not only for medical treatment and care but also end of life decisions. In New Jersey, one type of advance directive is a living will, also known as an instructive directive.

With a living will, anyone can change medical treatment preferences at any time. For example, someone may choose to be resuscitated should it be necessary and then decide against this later on in life. In addition, an individual can decide how to manage pain when being treated or choose to be an organ donor. Anyone wanting to donate his or her body to medical research can make this clear when creating a living will.

Without a living will, an individual may not have the care he or she wants and will be reliant on others to try to decide on treatment. Having a living will allows someone also to choose life-saving measures such as when being kept alive by a ventilator with limited hope for recovery. Someone who is incapacitated will have final wishes honored instead of the potential risk of receiving the treatment he or she does not want.

Another advance directive is the proxy directive, also known as a health care power of attorney. This document identifies someone to make healthcare decisions when someone is no longer able to do so due to injury or disease. This provides the ability for another person to decide on treatment options such as life-saving measures or end of life decisions. While it is not required to have both a living will and a proxy directive, it is recommended, and doing so can provide others with the information required to make the best healthcare decisions. In this case, the living will and the proxy directive can be combined together into a combined advance directive. The choice of any of these options depends upon a person’s circumstances and wishes.

An important consideration when creating a proxy directive is to make sure the individual selected will honor the wishes of the individual and be strong enough to stand up to opposition if such choices conflict with others. In some cases, family members may want ongoing treatment for an incapacitated family member, which is different from what the individual would like. In the case where a combined advance directive is used, the individual chosen to make healthcare decisions will be able to do so and use the specific choices outlined in the document to convince others the choices being made reflect the beliefs and values of the loved one.

Choosing to create an advance directive can be worthwhile as it allows others to fulfill the wishes and desires for treatment of a loved one unable to do so.

To make sure that you protect your family from heartache and ensure that your wishes are carried out, contact us today to make an appointment with one of the compassionate estate planning lawyers at Bratton Law.