What is an Advance Directive for Health Care?

Estate planning is meant to give you peace of mind. Knowing your assets will go to the proper people is important. But equally (if not more) important is knowing that the proper people will be able to take care of you when you cannot do so yourself. Therefore, one of the most indispensable parts of your estate plan is the Advance Directive for Health Care.

We have previously written about advance directives in greater detail, but, to summarize, the document is made up of three parts: (1) a living will, (2) health care proxy appointment, and (3) anatomical gifts.

Part One: The Living Will

The main portion of an advance directive is the “living will,” where you state your preference for the use of certain life-sustaining treatments under certain conditions. Namely, you state whether you want life-sustaining treatment (medical procedures to keep you alive when your body is not able to function on its own, e.g., CPR, intubation) or artificially administered nutrition and hydration (food/nutrients and/or fluids administered by intravenous methods).

Many people are concerned about signing a document that allows someone else to “pull the plug” on them. But an advance directive only addresses very specific circumstances: if you have a "terminal condition," an “end-stage condition,” or are “persistently unconscious.” We have explained these terms and other aspects of the living will in greater detail here.

Part Two: Appointment of Health Care Proxy

The advance directive also gives you the option to appoint a “health care proxy” who can make decisions for you if you are unable to do so. This portion of the document essentially operates as a medical power of attorney; however, it limits that power to the extent you have provided instructions for your care in your living will.

Part Three: Anatomical Gifts

In Oklahoma, an advance directive also allows you to state your wishes regarding organ donation. One of the options that gives many people pause is where you can donate your “entire body.” This does not mean you are donating your body to science. It simply means that you are willing to donate whatever will be useful, be it a lung, a kidney, or anything else.

Make an advance directive part of your estate plan.

End-of-life matters require a great deal of consideration and planning, and it is best to begin planning early. For more information on advance directives and other healthcare documents, contact the Oklahoma City estate planning attorneys at Postic & Bates today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

[As with all our posts, the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are subject to our site-wide disclaimer.]