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Advance Healthcare Directive: The Ins & Outs

Advance healthcare directive - how to protect your healthcare interests and wishes if you become incapacitated during lifetime

Getting Down to the Basics

An advance healthcare directive lets you detail your health care preferences in case you become “incapacitated” during your lifetime. End of life treatment, including decisions to prolong or not prolong life, desire for diagnostic testing, resuscitation measures, organ donation, and preference concerning final disposition of remains are some of the provisions contained in an advance healthcare directive. Why should you create an advance healthcare directive now, while your still fully capable of handling your own affairs? If you become incapacitated because of accident, illness, or age, for instance, the advance health cared directive becomes invaluable to ensure you receive the medical your want and that a trusted agent you named to oversee your care ensures your wishes are carried out. By considering medical options now (before you become incapacitated), you can ensure that your healthcare decisions are your own. It also takes medical decisions out of the hands of unknown medical personnel and puts it into the name(s) of your trusted agent(s) (usually family members). Ultimately, the advance healthcare directive not only carries out your wishes, it also alleviates the stress and uncertainty felt by your family members that may have to play God by guessing what you may have wanted. Take the guessing game out of the equation. Get an advance health care directive in place now as part of your overall estate planning package.

Important Elements of Advance Healthcare Directive

Advance health care directives are part of the overall estate planning scheme to protect your interests during lifeWho Makes Healthcare Decisions for you?

The person who acts as your fiduciary in an advance healthcare directive is called an agent. The important thing to remember is that you want to pick an agent that is trustworthy, dependable, and willing to act on your behalf when you are incapacitated and no longer able to make healthcare decisions. There are several people that cannot be agents in California. The main exclusion – healthcare providers cannot act as agent(s) of your advance healthcare directive.

Keep Advance Healthcare Directives Updated

“Old” Health Care Directives (HCD) executed in the past cause the following problems.

  • HCD executed before 1992 expire in seven (7) years.
  • HCD executed before 2000 that have statements concerning life-support are not mandatory. This means that agents have the discretion regarding life support regardless of the provisions contained in the HCD.

You need to keep your advance healthcare directives up to date. Otherwise, as noted above, your advance healthcare directive could be ineffective when you need it most.

Let Your Advance HealthCare Directive Agent Know

Remember, an advance healthcare directive is confidential. You can contact and provide a copy of your advance healthcare directive to your primary physician, family members, close friends, etc.  Your agent is the person that will eventually need to have the original advance healthcare directive. It’s wise to notify your agent the location of your original advance healthcare directive so it’s an easy transition when the time comes.