Advance Healthcare Directives Can Offer Greater Peace of Mind for Everyone

With an advance healthcare directive, you can clearly outline all your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical care.

These directives—also known as living wills—go into effect as soon as physicians can verify the following:

  • You are unable to make medical decisions for yourself;
  • You are in the specific medical condition stated in the living will laws affecting your jurisdiction (this language could include “permanent unconsciousness,” “terminal illness” or otherwise);
  • You meet any other requirements set by the state.

Advance healthcare directives are valid throughout the United States—although a directive in one state might not necessarily work in another. Some states honor advance directives from out of state, so long as they are close enough to that state’s own laws. Attorneys generally recommend that you create an advance healthcare directive for all states in which you spend a significant amount of time.

While you do not need to have an attorney present for your directive to be valid, it is helpful to consult a legal professional to ensure you fulfill all the regulations needed to comply with New York state law.

It’s also worth noting that your advance directive will never expire—it remains in effect until you decide to change it. Any changes automatically invalidate the previous version of the document. To that end, you should review your advance healthcare directive every now and then to make sure it’s up to date and reflects your current wishes. This will help you determine if you need to make any changes.

Finally, it’s important to understand that emergency medical technicians will not honor living wills or medical powers of attorney. As soon as they are called to handle an emergency, they will do everything necessary to stabilize a person’s condition and transfer him or her to a hospital. Only after a physician has evaluated patients and the conditions from which they are suffering will advance healthcare directives come into play.

Establishing medical power of attorney

Living wills provide doctors with instructions on how to handle end-of-life care if you are incapacitated. But what if you want someone else to make those decisions? In this case, you would establish medical power of attorney, appointing someone you trust to be your agent. That individual is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf in certain circumstances.

Before medical power of attorney goes into effect, physicians must determine the patient is unable to make his or her own decisions. Additionally, if the patient regains the ability to make decisions, the agent no longer has the power to act.

Using advance healthcare directives can protect you in medical situations and ensure doctors act in accordance with your wishes. For more information, speak with a skilled New York estate planning lawyer at Lissner & Lissner, LLP.