An Advance Health Care Directive is similar to a Power of Attorney except for the fact that an Advance Health Care Directive deals with health care decisions (rather than financial and property management decisions). Like a Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive is typically drafted in one of two ways in regards to “effect”:
- Springing: Most clients want their Advance Health Care Directive to be a “springing” document. This means that the Advance Health Care Directive only takes affect when the person becomes incapacitated. “Incapacity” is generally defined as either being certified by two physicians or by court order. If a person becomes incapacitated, then health care decision powers “spring” from that incapacitated person to the person of choice (“Agent”).
- Immediate: Many of my older clients want help with health care decisions immediately even though that client still has capacity. If this is the case, an immediate Advance Health Care Directive may be executed to give health care management power to that person of choice immediately.
An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to tailor your end of life wishes. The two most common areas where clients differ in their choices are:
- Life Support: Would you want to remain on life support if there is no real chance of you regaining consciousness?
If you do not want life support, how would your Agent verify that there is no chance of you coming back to consciousness? For example, would you want certification by two physicians?If you do want life support, how long would you want to remain on life support? Indefinitely? 10 days? 30 days?
- Organ Donation: Would you want to donate your organ?
As you are likely starting to see, an Advance Health Care Directive is a customizable document that may be changed to meet your needs.
Like a Power of Attorney, without an Advance Health Care Directive, your loved ones may be stuck going to Probate Court to obtain a conservatorship over you in order to make health care decisions. The conservatorship process is time-consuming and expensive, which is why pre-planning with a relatively inexpensive Advance Health Care Directive is a much smarter route.