FAQs about Advance Directives
Welcome to the Living Trust Network's frequently-asked questions (FAQs) about Advance Directives.
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What are advance health care directives?
What kind of health care instructions are there?
Am I required to have all of these?
What is a living will?
Can I decide what treatment I want under a living will?
What is artificial nutrition and hydration?
What is a durable power of attorney for health care?
Who should be my agent for health care?
Can I name more than one agent to act for me?
What is a pre-designation of conservator?
Who should I pre-designate as my conservator?
If I want to donate my organs, what should I do?
How do I make these health care instructions?
Where should I store these documents?
Will these documents be valid in other states?
Will doctors / hospitals honor my wishes regarding my health care?
How long will my advance directives last?
Must a lawyer create my advance directives?
Q: What are advance health care directives?
Q: What kind of health care instructions are there?
A: There are two kinds. The first is called a "living will." The second is called a "durable power of attorney for health care" or a "health care proxy." Many states authorize others as well; for example, the making of anatomical gifts, the pre-designation of a conservator in the event of future incapacity, and the designation of a custodian for bodily remains.
Q: Am I required to have all of these?
Q: What is a living will?
Q: Can I decide what treatment I want under a living will?
A: Yes. That decision is entirely up to you. But, it’s an important decision, so most professionals recommend that you discuss the available options with your loved ones and your professional advisors. Some people don’t feel comfortable making a living will, while many others do.
Q: What is artificial nutrition and hydration?
Q: What is a durable power of attorney for health care?
A: A "durable power of attorney for health care" is a legal document in which you name another person as your agent to make health care decisions for you. A durable power of attorney for health care is exactly the same as any other durable power of attorney except that it pertains only to your health care, not financial matters. You can include instructions about the types of medical treatments you want - or don’t want. The following are a few examples of the types of things you can include: Your personal goals, values and preferences; the types of medical treatment you would want - or don’t want; how you want your agent to make decisions; where you want to receive care; instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration; mental health treatments; organ donations; funeral arrangements; and whom you would like to have as a guardian or conservator of your person if one is to be appointed for you. You can be as general or as specific as you like, because it is your directive to your designated agent.
Q: Who should be my agent for health care?
Q: Can I name more than one agent to act for me?
Q: What is a pre-designation of conservator?
Q: Who should I pre-designate as my conservator?
Q: If I want to donate my organs, what should I do?
Q: How do I make these health care instructions?
Q: Where should I store these documents?
Q: Will these documents be valid in other states?
Q: Will doctors /hospitals honor my wishes regarding my health care?
Q: How long will my advance directives last?
A: There is no time limit for these documents. Generally, they will last until you change them or terminate them. You may change them at any time and from time to time by simply signing new documents. It is always a good idea to destroy your old documents so that they aren’t confused with your new ones. You may also terminate them at any time by:
Signing a written statement to that effect.
Destroying the original and all copies.
Telling at least two people that you are terminating them.
Writing new instructions.
Q: Must a lawyer create my advance directives?
The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on law and aging has created a number of health care planning tools that are ideal for anyone interested in planning for their future health care.
These tools provide a good way to engage in conversations with a spouse, children, or other loved ones about quality of life issues and priorites, and how they relate to the type of medical treatment that you wish to receive - or not receive - under various circumstances.
The following health care planning tools contain self-help worksheets and suggestions to help guide you along. Each tool is user-friendly and self-explanatory. A special thanks to the ABA for allowing us to make these very helpful tools available to our members and guests.
You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 or higher to view or print any of the tools listed above.
If you've already completed your health care directives, congratulations! You've well on your way toward peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.
However, there is still some work that remains to be done. In order for your health care directives to be truly effective, they have to be accessible to the right people at the right time. Most professionals recommend that you discuss your health care directives with those who have a need to know, including your spouse, children and other family members, your designated health care agent, and your primary physician. A copy should also be given to your designated health care agent and your primary physician.
Still, your health care directives won't do you any good if no one can find them. Too often, these documents are just not available when they're actually needed, either because they can't be found, or no one knows about them, or your out of state or out of country and there just isn't time to get them.
For this reason, we recommend that you register your advance directives with a national registry, such as Docubank.
DocuBank® is the largest electronic storage and access service for health care directives in the nation. DocuBank will store any and all of your health care directives: living will, health care power of attorney, HIPAA authorizations, organ donation forms and/or other health care documents.
Docubank helps to ensure that your medical wishes are known and respected when it counts.
When you store your health care documents with DocuBank, you receive a customized DocuBank Emergency Card like the one pictured below.
If you are hospitalized, the hospital staff will then obtain your documents by fax simply by calling 1-800-DOCUBANK, and following the instructions in the automated system. If the call is being made from outside the U.S., hospitals can follow the instructions on the back of the card. DocuBank® faxes your documents to the hospital immediately. DocuBank makes your important documents available any time, any day, anywhere in the world.
The DocuBank® Emergency Card features:
A name and phone number for a primary emergency contact
- Important Medical Allergies
- Information on Permanent Medical Conditions
- An announcement of Organ Donor form information
Additionally, when the hospital receives your faxed health care documents, the staff will also receive a cover page listing the information contained on the card and the names and phone numbers of two other emergency contacts, plus the name and phone number of your primary physician.
As a Living Trust Network referred client, you are eligible for a discount on your DocuBank membership. If you enroll through the Living Trust Network, you'll save over 10% on your enrollment fees! Through the Living Trust Network, a one-year enrollment fee is only $45 and a five-year enrollment fee is only $145.
To find our more about the peace of mind that DocuBank can offer you, visit their web site at www.docubank.com, or call them at 866-DOCUBANK (866-362-8226). Don't forget to tell them that the Living Trust Network sent you.
Here are some additional resources concerning end-of-life issues and advance medical directives.
Americans for Better Care of the Dying (ABCD), a Washington, DC based, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all Americans can count on good end of life care.
1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 635
Alexandria, VA 22314
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), a nonprofit public benefit, charitable organization advocating for the needs of terminally ill persons.
1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 625
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phamphlets and Booklets:
Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Artificial Feeding, Comfort Care and the Patient with a Life-Threatening Illness, by Hank Dunn. A&A Publishers, Inc. Over one million copies of this 48-page booklet on CPR, Artificial Feeding, Comfort Care and the Patient with a Life-Threatening Illness have been sold since 1990. Now in its fourth edition. Only $4.00 per copy.
You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 or higher to view one or more of the resources listed above.
What the Experts Say
Our experts are continually publishing articles on important estate planning topics. We believe that you'll find the following articles on Advance Directives to be particularly helpful.