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Advance Care Directives and Estate Planning

Watkins Tapsell Estate Planning

A sometimes overlooked part of Estate Planning deals with decisions made regarding end of life care. End of life care can involve decisions as to medical treatment, choices regarding resuscitation and artificial life support.

An Advance Care Directive is a document that sets out a person’s specific wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that they become medically incapacitated and unable to make those decisions on their own behalf.

An Advance Care Directive can be used to:

1. Plan future medical care;
2. Plan for an expected deterioration in health due to a medical condition;
3. Deal with terminal illness and the treatment choices and consequences involved;
4. Determine medical treatment. For example, if a patient does not want certain procedures or operations performed on them, that can be specified;
5. Rule out further treatment or life-sustaining procedures in the event of a traumatic injury which causes incapacity.

Advance Care Directives are often made in conjunction with the appointment of an Enduring Guardian. However, if the Advance Care Directive is made prior to or distinct from an Enduring Guardianship document, the appointed Guardian under that document must act in accordance with the separate Advance Care Directive.

Therefore, if you have specific health care requests, wishes or directions that you want to ensure are carried out, it is advisable that you complete an Advanced Care Directive in addition to any appointment of an Enduring Guardian or make sure that your existing Enduring Guardianship document contains an Advance Care Directive.

Advance Care Directives work best when they reflect a person’s most current wishes regarding their medical treatment. For these reasons, Directives that are years or decades old should be updated so that they accurately reflect current medical conditions and possible healthcare scenarios.

A well-drafted Advance Care Directive will be specific to a person’s desired medical treatments and will not use generalities. The more specific that the Directive is, the easier it will be for your Guardian to interpret your decisions, and for medical practitioners to provide appropriate medical care at a later date. When in doubt, the document should be more specific as opposed to less specific.

For more information on Advanced Care Directives or your individual Estate Plan, contact the Estate Planning Team at Watkins Tapsell.