What is an Advance Directive, and Why Do You Need One?

The advancements in medical technology, even in the past 5–10 years, have been quite remarkable. The average life expectancy in the U.S. continues to climb each year; the latest figures are almost at 79 years. Still, tomorrow is never guaranteed — the COVID-19 pandemic, though somewhat subsiding, reminded us of that uncomfortable fact. 

Before it’s your time to go, you need to set aside some time for estate planning. An important piece of your estate plan will be some sort of guidance on the medical care you wish to receive if you aren’t able to communicate your own wishes. There are a couple of options for Texans who anticipate being in this situation: a medical power of attorney or an advance directive. We will explain what you should know about the latter in this blog. 

What is the Purpose of an Advance Directive?

The general purpose of completing an advance directive is to let your treating physician know the medical treatments you want to receive when you are suffering from a terminal or irreversible condition. A terminal condition is defined as an ailment from which you are expected to pass away within six months. An irreversible condition is an ailment that is not curable and is expected to be fatal without “life-sustaining treatment.” It also renders patients unable to make decisions or care for themselves. Irreversible conditions often become terminal conditions. 

There is a section in most advance directives that allow you to list particular treatments you want to be withheld. This allows you to get quite specific in communicating your preferences. Farther down, you may name two competent adults who can fill in any gaps and help direct your treating physician if you are in a terminal or irreversible condition. This is not a replacement for a medical power of attorney; if you already have a medical power of attorney, you should not touch that section of the advance directive. 

What are the Benefits of an Advance Directive?

Without some legal document providing guidance for your medical team when you are unable to communicate your own wishes, there could be a lot of confusion and stress among your loved ones. Conversely, filling out an advance directive and providing copies to your doctor and family helps get everyone on the same page when it comes to your preferences and values. These are uncomfortable things to think about, but the peace of mind you’ll have after nailing down this part of your estate plan is incomparable.

Let Us Help Craft An Estate Plan that Works For You

No two estate plans are the same. Think of estate planning as completing a puzzle — what is the most efficient way to make sure your wishes are followed and your family is provided for? An advance directive is an important piece of that puzzle. At the very least, an attorney can look over your advance directive to make sure it is properly filled out and functions as you intend for it to function. Albright & Lumpkin has locations in Houston and League City; we’re here to answer any questions you have about your legal needs!

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