Advance Directives are documents that allow you to name others to exercise your rights if you are ever temporarily or permanently disabled or incapacitated. They allow you to remain in control of your life. If you have not made these designations, the courts will do it for you if you lose capacity. Advance directives include:
Designations of Health Care Surrogate – A document that allows you to designate a person of your choosing to make health care decisions for you if you are temporarily or permanently unable to make them for yourself. This with a durable power of attorney can prevent the necessity of a guardianship.
Durable Power of Attorneys – A durable power of attorney allows you to designate a person of your choosing to manage your financial affairs if you are temporarily or permanently unable. A normal power of attorney is invalid upon incapacity while a durable power of attorney is valid even in the event of incapacity. No power of attorney is valid after death. Designations should not be executed lightly and should be kept under tight control as they are, in essence, a blank check on your finances, but without them or a trust, a guardianship is the only other alternative.
Designation of Pre-need Guardian – This document allows either parents or individuals to identify who they would wish to be guardians for their children or themselves should one become necessary. For parents, this is a stronger declaration than just stating their preference in a will.
Living Wills – This document allows you to designate what treatments you want either withheld or administered in the event of an end-stage condition or persistent vegetative state. It is just as important to designate what treatments you do want as those you don’t, because some treatments can be withheld even without a living will. In addition to ensuring your wishes are fulfilled, a living will can eliminate the burden of these decisions from falling on your family. It requires two physicians to agree an appropriate condition exists before a living will takes effect, and a judicial review is required if any interested person objects.