What should be included in an advanced health care directive?

Readers may know that an estate plan can include an advanced directive and a durable power of attorney for health care. Today’s post explores some provisions that are typically included in these documents.

The durable power of attorney for health care should define the scope of the agency. Most forms grant complete authority over all health care decisions, provided the agent is acting in accordance with the instructions provided in the document.

A directive can also include a statement of the individual’s values and general wishes regarding health care, including when he or she would like to withdraw life support. A statement can also indicate a preference for treatments or medication that would relieve pain, even at the expense of hastening death. If a situation arises that is not contemplated by the document, an agent is tasked with making decisions that are in the individual’s best interest and in accordance with his or her communicated values.

Notably, an agent generally has the authority to decline or withdraw certain treatments, such as life support or artificial nutrition and hydration. The durable power of attorney should also define when the agency becomes effective, such as in the event of an individual’s incapacity. As a precaution, a form might also nominate the agent as a conservator, to the extent required by court procedures.

After the form is finalized, it is a good idea to notarize it in the presence of witnesses. That should protect against challenges to the document’s validity.

Source: FindLaw, “Health Care Directives: Is there a Duty to Follow Them?” copyright 2016, Thomson Reuters


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