Life is uncertain, and there may come a time when you are too ill to decide about your health. If that happens, doctors may turn to your loved ones to make those decisions on your behalf. But your family members may not know what you would have wanted or have differing opinions about your preferences, potentially leading to a traumatic family dispute — one you can avoid by adopting an advance directive.
With an advance healthcare directive, you can eliminate uncertainty regarding terminal or end-of-life care —making a difficult time a little easier for the ones you care about. Let a life care planning lawyer from Pennington Law, PLLC, help you through the process. We proudly serve clients throughout the Valley of the Sun from our offices in Sun City West, Buckeye, Peoria, and Surprise.
Contact us today for a free initial case evaluation to discuss the suitability of an advance directive as part of your estate plan. An Arizona advance directives attorney with our firm will explain your rights and options and help you craft a healthcare directives plan that effectively communicates your preferences and wishes to your loved ones.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive, also called a healthcare directive or advance care planning, refers to a form of estate planning that allows you to manage your healthcare ad financial matters even if you lose the ability to communicate preferences or instructions. The documents that make up an advance directive enable you to select someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you become disabled or to provide instructions to your loved ones regarding your preferences or wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care.
What Are the Two Types of Advance Directives?
Healthcare directives come in two basic types: living wills and durable powers of attorney.
A living will refers to a legal document that details your medical care preferences if you cannot communicate those preferences yourself. If you become incapacitated, your healthcare providers will turn to your next of kin to make treatment decisions before you. You can use a living will to inform your loved one about your preferences, including when you want to discontinue life-sustaining treatment. A living will can save your family from agonizing over tough end-of-life care decisions and prevent family members from arguing over what you would have wanted.
Durable Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney authorizes another person, called an attorney-in-fact, to handle your medical, legal, and financial matters for you. The power of attorney document will describe the scope of issues that your attorney-in-fact can handle. A power of attorney may grant an attorney-in-fact broad authority to address all issues for you or limit it to a specific set of matters.
A typical power of attorney usually expires if you become incapacitated or legally incompetent. However, a durable power of attorney document includes language that allows it to continue even if you become incapacitated, which makes it practical for healthcare matters. Unlike a living will, which enables you to direct your medical care at the end of your life after you lose the capacity to communicate for yourself, a durable power of attorney empowers your attorney-in-fact to make any healthcare decisions they think best for your well-being. You can use a durable power of attorney even if your treating providers believe you will make a full recovery.
An effective advance directive should include both a living will and a durable power of attorney. If you become incapacitated, your power of attorney will appoint someone to make medical decisions. At the same time, the living will informs your healthcare representative about your preferences and wishes regarding your medical care.
Things to Consider When Preparing an Advance Directive
Preparing an advance directive may seem daunting if you try to address every possible healthcare scenario you can conceive of. However, your directive should cover critical issues such as:
- What matters most to you during a health emergency or at the end of life? Your advance directive should communicate your values and preferences. Do you want extraordinary life-sustaining treatment if you have no reasonable chance of recovery? What level of pain or discomfort are you willing to endure?
- Who do you trust to make medical decisions for you? You might choose your spouse, a family member, a close friend, or your lawyer. Once you’ve selected a healthcare representative, you need to discuss your values and preferences with them and specific treatments if you have a particular medical condition.
- Should you appoint an alternate healthcare representative if your primary representative cannot make decisions? Do you want to expressly exclude any family members from making healthcare decisions for you?
- Do you want to execute any do-not-resuscitate or hospitalize orders or physician/medical orders for life-sustaining treatment?
- Would you rather receive end-of-life care in a hospital or at home?
- Do you have any preferences or religious requirements for the disposition of your body after death or for any memorial services? Do you want to become an organ or tissue donor or donate your body for research or educational purposes?
What Are the Duties of the Healthcare Representative in an Advance Directive?
A healthcare representative, also called a healthcare proxy or agent, is primarily responsible for making medical treatment decisions if you cannot communicate your instructions or preferences. The healthcare representative should make your treatment decisions based on your best interests, which include your preferences about the kind of healthcare you wish to receive or how long you want life-sustaining care if you have reached a terminal condition.
Because you will likely choose a close family member or friend to serve as your healthcare representative, they will know your preferences and wishes based on your conversations. You can also express your wishes to your healthcare representative through a living will. However, it is impossible to foresee every possible scenario. Thus, in an unanticipated situation, your healthcare representative must make treatment decisions based on the decisions they believe you would make.
Disputes Related to an Advance Directive
One of the primary goals of an advance directive is to reduce the likelihood of family disputes over questions like:
- Who should make the healthcare decisions?
- Which course of treatment should your family choose?
- Should your family continue life support or life-prolonging treatment if you have a poor chance of recovery?
- Should your family donate your organs or tissue after your death? How should your family dispose of your body?
An advance directive drafted with the assistance of an attorney can help prevent family disputes if you suffer a terminal illness or reach the end of your life. A clear, unambiguous directive should instruct your family and healthcare providers on your preferences and wishes.
How an Arizona Healthcare Directive Attorney Can Help You
Although you can draft an advance directive yourself, working with an Arizona healthcare directive attorney from Pennington Law, PLLC, can make the planning process more effective and efficient. Our firm will use our legal knowledge and experience to ensure that your healthcare providers and family members honor your final wishes. Let a member of our legal team help you by:
- Advising you about the suitability of a healthcare directive and what documents and orders you might include in your directive.
- Discussing the values and wishes you want to communicate to your doctors and loved ones.
- Helping you select a healthcare representative and alternate representatives should your first choice be unable to serve as planned.
- Drafting documents and forms for your advance directive, including a living will, durable power of attorney, or DNR orders/orders for life-sustaining treatment.
- Ensuring the validity and enforceability of your advance directives.
- Helping you store your advance directive documents and forms so your designated representative or family members know where to find them if you become incapacitated.
- Regularly checking in with you to update your directive as necessary to reflect health conditions or changed preferences.
By assembling your effective advance directive plan, we can relieve the fear of burdening your family members with your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated.
Contact an Arizona Advance Directives Lawyer Today
For years, Pennington Law, PLLC, has used our extensive estate planning experience to offer trusted counsel to clients and families of all backgrounds and throughout the Valley of the Sun. We understand the difficulty of dealing with end-of-life issues, so you can expect our team to provide a sensitive, compassionate, open environment where you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Our attorneys will take the time to educate you about your options and listen to your needs and goals so we can provide you with tailored advice and solutions.
A medical emergency can happen at any time, so don’t put off drafting a healthcare directive. Contact Pennington Law, PLLC, today for a free, confidential consultation with an Arizona advance directives attorney about your legal options. We can help you have peace of mind by knowing that your family has the tools to make healthcare or end-of-life decisions if you lose the ability to communicate your wishes.