The Importance of an Advance Directive: Protecting your Health Decisions

When it comes to conversations about estate planning, the will tends to get the most attention in terms of essential documents. According to, an online resource of information for elderly individuals and their caretakers, one in three Americans has executed an advance directive for health care, and almost 20% do not even know what this important document is. Even if you have made the smart decision to execute a will, you could be leaving large gaps in your estate plan if you are not considering your options for advance directives.

Overview of Advance Directives

The specific types are detailed below, but the objective of an advance directive is to address the health care issues that may arise if you become incapacitated. Without a plan in place, there is no one who has the power to seek treatment and make medical decisions on your behalf. Your loved ones would have to go to court to obtain permission through the guardianship process, which can be time-consuming and costly. Meanwhile, you may not be receiving the essential care you need because family members lack proper authority.

You sidestep the guardianship process by executing one or more advance directives, which enable individuals to step into your shoes and make your wishes known if you cannot make decisions due to incapacity.

Types of Advance Directives

You may hear different terms for advance directives because state laws vary; however, the key documents are called:

● Designation of Health Care Surrogate (or Advanced Medical Directive): With this document, you appoint a person to act as your agent for purposes of medical decision-making and discussing your needs with health care providers. The designation also allows you to express your intentions regarding end-of-life care and organ donation.

● Living Will: Through a living will, you can make your wishes known regarding the types of medical care you want to prolong your life, such as feeding and breathing tubes. There are also provisions regarding implementing pain medications and other palliative treatment if you are terminally ill.

● Do Not Resuscitate Order: This document informs healthcare providers that you do not want to be revived by artificial means if you go into cardiac or pulmonary arrest. There are strict requirements for executing and presenting a DNR.

This overview of the laws and options for advance directives is useful for grasping the basic concepts, but you could overlook important requirements and legal issues by trying to handle estate planning on your own. For more information on how our team can assist with all your estate planning needs, please contact Francois Williams Legal LLC to schedule a consultation. You can reach our offices in Fort Lauderdale, FL by calling (954) 372-2021 or in Largo, Maryland by calling (301) 358-0377 or visiting us online.

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