Advance directives are written statements regarding health care wishes that protect your rights if you are incapable of making medical decisions.

An advance directive can refer to a document that outlines which medical treatments you may or may not want and specifies who you want to make medical decisions if you're unable.

Who should complete an advance directive?

Everyone over the age of 18 should complete an advance directive.

When should the advance directive be completed?

The best time to complete an advance directive is before it is needed, when there is time to consider the options carefully and discuss them with loved ones.

When does an advance directive become effective?

An advance directive will become effective when the physician determines you are incapacitated. A valid, executed advance directive must also be available in the health care setting.

How does an advance directive become valid?

Although this can vary by state and type of directive, typically an advance directive must be signed and dated in front of two adult witnesses. The two adult witnesses must sign to attest you are of sound mind during the process. If you complete the durable power of attorney section, the document must be signed in the presence of a notary public, who will fill out the notary block. The designated health care proxy cannot be a witness. 

How long is the advance directive in effect?

A properly executed advance directive does not expire. It is important to review your directives periodically to be sure they reflect your current wishes.

What if I change my mind?

You can always change your proxy or revoke an advance directive. You should fill out a new form and give the updated copies to your loved ones and health care providers.

How is an advance directive different than a living will and durable power of attorney?

Advance directive is a general term. A living will is a type of health care directive that specifies your preferences about medical treatment if you're unable to communicate or make decisions and have a terminal condition. 

A durable power of attorney, or DPOA, for health care is a legal document that allows you to appoint another person to make health care decisions if you lack the capacity to do so. The document may also outline instructions to your legally appointed surrogate about the kinds of medical treatment you want. 

What is a health care proxy?

The person who serves as a surrogate decision-maker in situations where the patient is unable to represent themselves. A durable power of attorney is a health care proxy appointed by the patient that has the legal authority to participate in medical decision-making on the patient’s behalf.

What type of decisions can be made by a health care proxy?

A health care proxy can only participate in making medical choices for you. Consult a lawyer if you want to appoint an individual to make financial decisions for you.

Once I complete an advance directive, what should I do?

Engage in a conversation regarding your health care wishes and give copies of the advance directive to your health care proxy, loved ones and health care providers.

What if I have more questions?

Talk to your health care provider about any concern you may have. For more information or to create an advance directive, visit www.mylivingvoice.com.

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