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What is an Advance Medical Directive?

Including an Advance Medical Directive in your estate plan will ensure your loved ones enforce the medical care you do and do not want.

Do your loved ones know what life-prolonging care you do or do not want in the event you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes on your own? 

An estate plan carefully outlines your final wishes and covers a variety of other personal matters. Among the things typically included in an estate plan are deciding who inherits your assets, deciding who will care for your minor children or any pets, and your preferences for end-of-life care. An Advance Directive takes care of the latter. 

What exactly is an Advance Medical Directive? Why is an Advance Directive important? Here is everything you need to know about Advance Medical Directives and how to include yours in your estate plan. 

How do Advanced Medical Directives work? 

An advance directive is a document that outlines your wishes regarding medical care in writing. Many erroneously assume their loved ones know and will enforce their wishes, and while you can certainly express your wishes orally, without an Advance Directive in place, there may be more confusion than clarity. 

In short, an Advance Medical Directive is a way to consent or refuse medical interventions in specific clinical situations and is longstanding even in the event you experience severe or irreparable cognitive impairment. 

In other words, this critical document outlines your medical preferences in the event you are not able to communicate them on your own. 

The Two Types of Advance Medical Directives in Virginia

In Virginia, there are two types of advance directives. These include:

Appointment of an Agent

You may appoint another person, such as a spouse, child, or friend, to be your “agent” or “proxy” to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated or are unable to provide informed consent for health care decisions independently. You can also specifically tell your agent what kinds of care you do and do not want. This is also called a medical Power of Attorney (POA) or “Power of Attorney for Health.” 

Living will

You may also state which life-prolonging treatment(s) you want or do not want (such as a DNR or Do-Not-Resuscitate) if you are diagnosed as having a terminal condition and are unable to express your own wishes. This is called a living will

Benefits of Including an Advance Medical Directive in Your Estate Plan

An estate plan is an all-encompassing compilation of your final wishes. Including an Advance Medical Directive in your estate plan can lighten the load on your children or other loved ones who are caring for you or coordinating funeral arrangements. Since it will already be a stressful and trying time for those who love you most, being proactive in your designations for end-of-life care can make things easier on everyone, including you. The benefits of including an advance medical directive are:

  • Documenting your preferences for end-of-life or life-prolonging care can circumvent awkward or uncomfortable conversations with family members who are caring for you. 
  • Remove any guesswork or undue burdens on your loved ones when deciding what healthcare measures to take should you become incapacitated or terminal.
  • Create clarity and understanding about your final wishes so everyone in your family and healthcare professionals are all on the same page about your care.
  • Ensure your final wishes for end-of-life care are carried out.

Do I need an advanced medical directive if I am young and healthy?

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but it isn’t only the elderly who experience death. Since you never know what tomorrow may bring, it’s important to consider that you might need someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you suffer a serious injury or develop a terminal illness. Thus, having an advance medical directive in place along with verbally sharing your wishes with the person you appoint can keep your stress at bay if you are prone to consider the “what-ifs” in these situations.

Can I appoint more than one person as my medical power of attorney? 

Can you? Yes. Should you? No. While you can certainly communicate your wishes to all of your children, for example, appointing more than one person on your medical directive can cause conflict, and confusion, and make these important decisions harder for everyone involved. And don’t worry—your agent or proxy can only make these decisions for you should another doctor or licensed clinical psychologist determine you are unable to make decisions for yourself. And if you are only temporarily unable to decide for yourself, the authority returns to you when you regain capacity.

Mobile Estate Planning Made Easy

The process of getting a legitimate will in place for you and your family can be overwhelming, confusing, and costly, but it doesn’t have to be! At Assurest, we offer simple, affordable solutions for your legal needs and make the process easy by coming to you for the conversation—meeting you in your home or, if you prefer, virtually or over the phone.

Serving the Greater Richmond area and beyond, our experienced and trustworthy professionals simplify the process using clear, understandable language free of legal jargon and provide flat-rate packages, so you’re never surprised by the bill. Contact us today and rest assured that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are protected.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Written By
Matthew Reinaker
March 21, 2023
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