Many people have very strong feelings about the kind of medical care they want or don’t want in the event of a life-threatening emergency. Some people want every possible life-saving technique used, while others prefer no excessive medical intervention. However, unless your wishes are in writing and known by your family, friends, and physician, decisions could be made on your behalf that you don’t want if you're unable to convey your preferences.
Having an advance medical directive in place can help ensure that you receive the kind of care and treatment you want should you be incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. It’s important to know about advance medical directives and how a Virginia estate planning attorney can help you draft and execute yours.
What Is an Advance Medical Directive?
An advance medical directive, also known as a power of attorney for healthcare, is an estate planning legal document that allows you to specify the type of medical care you do and do not want to receive if you're incapacitated. You can also use an advance medical directive to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself. Additionally, an advance medical directive can be used to state whether your organs, tissue, or entire body should be donated upon your death.
It’s important to note that your agent's legal power to make decisions for your only goes into effect if two doctors—yours and another licensed physician—examine you and find you're unable to make decisions for yourself.
Executing an Advance Medical Directive
After writing up your advance medical directive, the Commonwealth of Virginia requires you to take special steps to make the document legally binding. You must sign the directive in the presence of two witnesses, and these witnesses must also sign the document.
Once you and your witnesses have signed the advance medical directive, it's a good idea to make copies and distribute them to the following people:
- Your agent or proxy
- Your physicians
- Your family and friends
You should keep the original directive in a safe place such as a safe or lockbox, and you should bring a copy of the directive with you to the hospital when going in for treatment or a procedure.
Revoking an Advance Medical Directive
Advance medical directives may be legally binding, but that doesn't mean they're set in stone. If you change your mind about who should serve as your agent or what type of medical care you want, you can “revoke” part or all of the directive by doing any of the following:
- Signing and dating a written document declaring your revised wishes
- Physically destroying the directive
- Verbally expressing the intention to revoke the directive
When only part of an advance medical directive is revoked, the other provisions remain in effect. After revoking a previously legally binding advance medical directive, it's important to update your agent, physicians, and hospital of relevant changes.
Consult an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney for Help With Your Advance Medical Directive
It’s easy to put off estate planning responsibilities until later in life. However, having an advance medical directive in place ensures you're prepared for the worst should a medical emergency happen. Drafting and executing an advance medical directive can be a complicated process for Virginians with no previous estate planning experience, but Quest Law PLLC can help.
Whether you're just getting started or revoking a previous advance medical directive, our estate planning attorney can guide you through each step of the process. If you have questions about an advance medical directive, contact Quest Law PLLC today to schedule an appointment for a private consultation.