“Advance directives” are documents in which you provide instructions or express your wishes about the medical care you want to receive if you become incapable of making treatment decisions for yourself. There are two types, which are:
- The Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA). This is where you name someone to make medical decisions for you when you no longer can make them for yourself.
- The Living Will. In this one you set forth your wishes for treatment at the end of life or if you are in a permanently unconscious state. Find out more about living wills here.
What Is an MDPOA
Quite simply, as stated above, it’s a document in which you name a person to make health care decisions for you when you are not able to make them yourself. The person you name is called your proxy.
It also allows you to lay out your philosophy as to the types of treatment you want to receive or decline while you are incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes. It is much broader than a living will, which only expresses your desires if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and are unable to express your wishes regarding the use of life-prolonging procedures.
You Need Both an MDPOA and a Living Will
The best policy is to have both documents, and that is what I recommend to my clients. They work together to ensure that your wishes are understood and followed. In fact, I prepare one document that acts as both, for simplicity’s sake. The advantages are:
- It allows you to make your wishes clear so that your proxy will not have to rely on guesswork to determine what you would have wanted,
- Your family members can be reassured that your proxy is acting consistently with your wishes,
- Both your proxy and family members are relieved of the emotional burdens of making these difficult decisions,
- A living will and an MDPOA may make doctors and hospitals more willing to follow your instructions, and
- A proxy can serve as a tiebreaker if your family members do not agree on your treatment.
When to Put These Documents in Place
It’s important to bear in mind that living wills and MDPOAs are not just for the sick or elderly. Everyone should consider having them. A catastrophic accident or medical crisis rendering a person permanently unconscious could occur at any time. Many people execute living wills and MDPOAs as part of a comprehensive estate plan prepared by their estate planning attorney. You should too!
So What Should I Do?
I recommend that everyone have an estate plan that includes an advance medical directive. If you want more information about estate plans and things you need to think about to prepare them, then I recommend that you download my free book, A Guide to Creating Your Estate Plan. It will get you a long way towards achieving that goal.
But if you live in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland counties, have decided that you need to put together an estate plan, and are ready to move forward to create one, then just click here to schedule a free, no obligation phone call to discuss it.
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