Advance Directives - FAQ

Click *here* to download a copy of the Advance Directive form.

What is an Advance Directive?

Advance directives provide a way for you to tell your health care providers about the care you wish to receive - or not receive - should you ever become unable to tell them of your wishes. There are two forms of advance directives:

1. Living Will
2. A power of attorney for health care decisions.

Why should I consider having an Advance Directive?

By law, health care providers must provide necessary medical care to all individuals within their care. They are relieved of this duty only if you have informed them of care you do not want to receive. In the event you are not able to express your wishes, you may do this by writing a living will, a power of attorney for health care decisions, or both.

What is a living will?

A living will is a legal paper in which you spell out your wishes concerning medical care. It goes into effect only if you have a terminal medical condition or are a state of permanent unconsciousness, and your doctor determines that you are incompetent to make medical decisions.

Is a living will the same thing as a last will and testament?

NO! A last will and testament tells your survivors what to do with your property after you die.

What is a power of attorney for health care decisions?

This allows you to say who can make decisions about your health care if you are not able to make such decisions yourself. The person you name to make decisions is called your "agent" and should be someone that you know, trust, and with whom you can talk about your wishes.

Do I need to have both a living will and a power of attorney for health care decisions?

Having an advance directive in the form of either a living will or power of attorney, or both, is recommended but not necessary. For informing your health care provider of specific treatment you do or do not want, it is best to complete a living will.

Where can I get forms to complete an Advance Directive?

They may be available through your doctor, hospital, or County Area Agency on Aging offices. You can also download the form here.

Do I need an attorney to write a living will or a power of attorney for health care decisions?

No. However, if you want a power of attorney for health care decisions, there are some legal rules that a lawyer will know best how to handle. In all cases, you and two adult witnesses, excluding a blood relative or spouse, must sign your advance directive.

What should I put in my Advance Directive?

The most important thing is to express your wishes or give permission to your agent to make decisions for you about receiving or not receiving certain forms of medical treatment that would keep you alive. (See glossary of terms.) You may also wish to indicate your wishes regarding organ and tissue donation.

Where should I keep my Advance Directive and who should know about it?

· Give a copy of your advance directive to your family doctor, lawyer, family, and to those people you have named to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them.

· You also should bring a copy with you when you are being admitted to a hospital, nursing home, or other health care facility.
· Make sure that when there are changes to your advance directive, all old copies are destroyed.

What if I don't have an Advance Directive?

As long as you are able, you and your doctor together will decide about your care. If you are unable to communicate your wishes or to make decisions, your doctor will discuss this with your family. If you have no family, a court order may be required to decide your care.

Can the same Advance Directive be used in other states?

You should know the law in each state in which you live. It may be necessary to have more than one advance directive to meet the legal rules in each state.

Can I change my Advance Directive?

An advance directive is only effective when you are unable to express your wishes. It may be changed or cancelled by you at any time. It is a good idea to review your advance directive periodically to make sure it is still in agreement with your wishes.