Why do I Need an Advance Care Directive?

It can be stressful, overwhelming, and frightening to think that you may not be able to make decisions about your healthcare. However, a sudden illness, accidental injury, or other medical condition might result in your inability to make medical decisions for yourself. If you do not take steps now to make your wishes known very clearly, appoint someone to enforce those wishes, and make health care decisions for you, a Maryland judge will make the decisions for you by appointing a guardian.

Some individuals execute a Health Care Power of Attorney or a Living Will. However, as a seasoned Maryland estate-planning attorney, I advise clients to execute both documents. An Advance Care Directive can combine both legal documents into one document to make matters easier for you and your appointed agent.

What is the Purpose of an Advance Care Directive?

The purpose of an Advance Care Directive is to carefully explain how you want medical decisions to be made for you in the event you are unable to make the decisions for yourself. Even though you can locate forms for an Advance Care Directive online, preparing this important legal document without the assistance of a Maryland estate-planning attorney can result in your health care wishes being ignored.

Some generic forms are too vague or too rigid to be enforced by a court. In that event, the court may declare the document to be invalid and appoint someone to make medical decisions for you. The person appointed by the court may not be the same person you chose as your agent in the Advance Care Directive.  Furthermore, the person is not required to follow your directives if the court rules the document is invalid.

Because of these serious issues, I encourage you to contact a Maryland estate-planning attorney to discuss drafting and executing an Advance Care Directive now. It is better to have this document and not need it than to risk allowing the state or someone you do not trust to make personal and sensitive health care decisions for you.

What Does an Advance Care Directive Cover?

With an Advance Care Directive, you can combine a Living Will with a Health Care Power of Attorney. 

Under the Living Will portion of the directive, you state your preferences regarding life-sustaining medical treatments and other medical care if you are diagnosedwith a terminal condition. For example, you declare whether you want a feeding tube or you do not want a feeding tube. Another example would be whether or not to keep you on a respirator if the physician states you are terminal. End of life decisions regarding medical treatments is a sensitive and personal matter. By putting your decisions in writing, you avoid being kept alive by mechanical means or placing the burden of deciding to “unplug” you on your loved ones.

The Health Care Power of Attorney portion of an Advance Care Directive allows you to select an individual to act on your behalf and make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. The document should clearly state at what point your agent is granted power to make medical decisions for you. By working with a Maryland estate-planning attorney, you can ensure that an Advance Care Directive complies with all state laws to reduce the chance that medical providers or the court will not honor the document.

Seek The Advice of a Trusted Maryland Estate Planning Attorney

If you have questions about the use of Advance Care Directives in Maryland, contact Thienel Law, LLC today to discuss your concerns and questions with an experienced Maryland estate-planning attorney. Estate-planning attorney Steve Thienel is dedicated to assisting clients in Maryland, Virginia, and throughout the DC Metro area.