Did you know that only one-third of Americans over the age of 18 have signed advance directives? This 2014 study, conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM), analyzed the factors associated with advance directives completion. The AJPM discovered that 25 percent of Americans who did not prepare advance directives simply weren’t aware of its importance or know what the documents were to begin with. Others did not prepare advance directives because they were young and healthy, seeing advance directives as unnecessary. The lack of preparation when it comes to advances directives stems from a lack of education.
Advance directives outline a person’s wishes and specifies what actions need to be taken regarding medical treatment in extreme cases where that person can no longer make decisions for him/herself. It generally refers to a living will and a power of attorney: two documents that have been analyzed in previous blog posts. The living will specifies to medical professionals as well as your family what end-of-life (EOL) treatments you want to receive and under what conditions you want to receive them. A health care power of attorney gives you the power to appoint someone, your “agent,” as the person you want to make medical decisions on your behalf in the case of disablement or incapacitation.
One misconception about advance directives is that they are only important when you’re older. Even if you are young and healthy, you should still complete advance directives. Jennifer Jedrzejewski, director of advanced planning for Northwestern Mutual in 2015, advises individuals to complete advance directives when they turn the age of 18. A person of any age can be in a car accident or diagnosed with a medical disease at any time. In these unforeseen circumstances, advance directives express to your family and medical professionals exactly what you want them to do. Without advance directives in place, your family will have to go to court and have someone appointed to make these decisions on your behalf, making a devastating situation even more stressful.
Because each state has its own laws regarding health care proxies, you should contact an attorney to ensure your advance directives are created accurately and comply with state law. Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC, is willing to offer the necessary legal guidance to ensure the accuracy of your advance directives.
Advance directives consist of both a living will and a health care power of attorney.
Living will- specifies to medical professionals and your family what end-of-life (EOL) treatments you want to receive and under what conditions you want to receive them.
Health care power of attorney- gives you the power to appoint someone, your “agent,” as the person you want to make medical decisions on your behalf in the case of disablement or incapacitation.
You should complete advance directives when you reach the age of 18.
Each state has its own laws regarding health care proxies.
As long as you are capable of making your own decisions, you can revoke or revise your directives.
Keep a copy of your advance directives in a safety deposit box and an easily accessible place in your home.
Give a copy of your advance directives to family members and physicians.
The terms in red are followed by their definition.