advanced directive

5 minute read

What is an Advance Directive?

Planning ahead for life’s unknowns can be scary, but worth it. Learn about advance directives, living wills and more in this article by Trust & Will.

Planning ahead for life’s unknowns is the best gift you can give...not only to yourself, but also to the loved ones around you. It’s a difficult thing to think about, and navigating it may seem overwhelming. But now is the perfect time to really start planning for what may happen in your future. Thinking about an Advance Directive (also known as a Healthcare Directive) at an early age will make things so much easier on everyone you love during a likely very difficult time. 

Read on to learn more about the following:

  • Types of Advance Healthcare Directives

  • Advance Directive vs Living Will

  • What should be included in an Advance Directive?

  • Other common questions about Advance Directives

Types of Advance Healthcare Directives

There are two basic ways you can prepare in event you become incapacitated or unable to make healthcare decisions on your own. These are elements of an Advance Healthcare Directive through a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney or a Living Will. A third possibility is to use a hybrid of these two – combined documents that blend aspects of both into one document. 

However you go about it, your goal is to better-ensure your wishes are known and followed should the time ever come where you can’t make your own decisions regarding your medical care. 

Your Healthcare Directive can make sure doctors and your family know how you feel about many different types of medical decisions. While they’re not all required parts of a directive, some of the things you can address include:

  • Artificial hydration (IV fluids)

  • Artificial nutrition (tube feeding)

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • Comfort care

  • Do Not Intubate (DNI) orders

  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders

  • Organ donation wishes

  • Tissue donation wishes

  • And more...

NOTE: Laws regarding what is an Advance Healthcare Directive can vary by state. Be sure when preparing that you’re specific to the state you live in. And remember to review, revise and update your Healthcare Directive if you ever move out of state. 

Advance Directive vs Living Will

An Advance Directive is just a document that allows you to plan ahead for healthcare decisions that may need to be made on your behalf in the future. 

A Living Will is a type of Advance Directive that allows you to inform loved ones and doctors about the levels of treatment you want if you can’t make decisions during an emergency medical situation or any other time. If you’re unable to communicate your wishes, your Living Will can specify what procedures you do and don’t want performed, and to what extent you want interventions put in place. People often use their Living Will as part of an Advance Directive.  

What Should be Included in an Advance Directive?

There are many medical decisions you can include in your Advance Directive. Some things to think about and decide on before you move on might include: 

  • Do you want a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) in place? 

  • Do you want a Do Not Intubate (DNI) in place?

  • Would you want CPR performed if you need it?

  • Would you want dialysis if your kidneys stop working?

  • Would you want a feeding tube or IV fluids if you can’t eat or drink on your own?

  • Would you want to be on life support if you’re in a coma with little-to-no chance for recovery?

Other things to consider including might be:

  • A Healthcare Proxy: The document that names the agent or proxy you want to step in to make medical decisions for you. Healthcare Proxies are also sometimes referred to as: HCP; Healthcare Agent; Healthcare Power of Attorney; Medical Power of Attorney; Durable Medical Power of Attorney; Healthcare Surrogate; and more.

  • A Living Will: A written statement detailing a person's desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.

Other common questions about Advance Directives

Can You Change or Update Your Advance Healthcare Directive?

Yes, you can change, update or revoke any or all parts of your Advance Healthcare Directive at any time. 

What is a POLST Form?

A POLST (“Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment”) form is a portable medical order form. POLSTs state your wishes for end-of-life care that should be honored during a medical crisis or emergency. They’re also sometimes called a POST, MOLST or MOST. POLSTs differ from traditional Healthcare Directives in that they’re created in a medical form format. Most, but not all, states recognize POLST forms.  

How to Choose a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

Choosing your Healthcare POA is just as important, and often as difficult, as any other part of your Estate Planning. Note that you don’t have to appoint a family member as your agent. Sometimes, it’s more difficult for a relative to make these tough decisions on your behalf. You want someone who can make quick decisions while remaining objective. Some things to think about…

  • Are they generally calm and rational in crisis situations? 

  • Are they the type of person who will ask your doctors questions?

  • Can they stand up and advocate for you if needed?

  • Will they ask questions if they don’t understand something? 

  • Will they be able to make decisions on your behalf even if what you want differs from their own belief system?

Should the time come that your Healthcare POA needs to step in, you’ll be asking a lot of them – it’s important to think now about how well-suited they’ll be for the role. 

Advance Directives are an important part of preparing for life’s unknowns. Isn’t it time you start thinking about creating yours? Think of the incredible peace of mind you’ll have knowing you’ve lifted some of the burden off your loved ones by making your wishes clearly known. Prepare today for what they may need to deal with in the future. Trust & Will makes the process of creating your Living Will and Advance Directive quick and simple. 

Have questions? We’re here to help! Reach out to chat with our expert support team today. Learn just how easy we make it for you to take those next steps and prepare for your future.


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