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What Are Advance Directives?

By Katherine Crowell

May 7, 2020


Advance Directives are legally binding documents that deal with health care matters. Different states have different names for these important documents. Depending on the state, a document might be called:

  • Advance Directive

  • Advance Healthcare Directive

  • Living Will

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney

  • Healthcare Proxy

What should your advance directives cover?

No matter what the documents are called, it’s important that you cover these issues in your advance directives:

  • Your wishes about life support systems. This can include artificially administered nutrition and hydration, mechanical respiration, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This is particularly important if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and not capable of communicating your wishes.

  • The person you wish to appoint as your agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make those decisions yourself; and

  • Your wishes regarding organ donation. This includes whether or not you wish to donate organs. If you do want to, it can cover which organs and for what purposes. It can also cover whether you want your agent to make the decision.

In some states, you can address these issues in a single document, but in others, you may need multiple documents.

Be sure that you understand the specific language and consequences of the documents used in your state. In addition to your attorney, you may also want to consult your physician if you have any questions about specific medical treatments or how your health care documents will work in specific situations.


Excerpt from the book Estate Planning for the Savvy Client: What You Need to Know Before You Meet With Your Lawyer by Mary L. Barrow, Esq.

Copyright ©2020, 2017 by Mary L. Barrow

THIS EXCERPT IS A BRIEF SUMMARY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE OF COMPETENT LEGAL COUNSEL FROM AN ATTORNEY ADMITTED OR AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE LAW IN YOUR JURISDICTION. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY BEFORE IMPLEMENTING OR CHANGING ANY ESTATE PLANNING STRATEGY.