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Understanding Advance Directives: Making Healthcare and End-of-Life Care Decisions

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2023 | Health Care Directives, Health Care POA, HPOA, Living Will, Medical POA, MHPOA, POA, POAs

When considering estate planning, most people only think about the obvious will or trust components. However, another crucial aspect of a comprehensive estate plan is the peace of mind offered by advance directives. Advance directives traditionally include a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney, and Living Will. These can be especially tough decisions to make and sensitive conversation to have, but having advance directives ensures your wishes are respected and takes a burden off your family. 

Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA)

An HPOA allows you to appoint a trusted family member or loved one (called an agent) to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate those decisions yourself. You can give your agent broad authority to make decisions as if they were your own, or you can choose to limit their authority in particular ways. Common aspects of the HPOA include autopsy, organ donation, burial/cremation, nomination of a guardian, etc. Having this in place ensures that your loved ones won’t need to seek a guardianship from the court in order to make these decisions on your behalf.

Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney (MHPOA)

Similar to the HPOA, the MHPOA allows you to appoint an agent specifically to make mental healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. This includes giving the agent access to your treatment information, consenting to medications that have been prescribed for any conditions, and the ability for your agent to admit you to an intensive care facility under 24-hour supervision (for more serious conditions). You can choose any one (or all three) of these powers to give to your agent. This saves the hassle of a mental health court judge having to intervene in the situation. 

Living Will

The term “living will” is a little bit of a misnomer. It actually has nothing to do with a traditional will, or Last Will and Testament. Instead, a living will dictates your end-of-life care decisions. This would be a situation in which you are unable to communicate your wishes, and you are either in (1) a terminal condition, (2) a persistent vegetative state, or (3) an irreversible coma. It allows you to determine the level of care you would like to receive, and whether or not you would like the use of artificial means to prolong your life.

Concluding Thoughts

Advance directives can be a sensitive topic to discuss, but the relief they provide both you and your family once they are in place is immeasurable. If you’d like some assistance creating your own advance directives, schedule a free 30 minute consultation with us today.