An estate plan can do far more than determine how your assets will be disbursed after you pass away—when done right, it can also help you protect yourself while you’re still alive. Advance medical directives, also called advance healthcare directives, let you nominate a loved one or trusted professional to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to speak for yourself.
Situations When You Might Need an Advance Medical Directive
An advance healthcare directive takes effect if you become incapacitated and need someone else to make decisions on your behalf. You may need an advance medical directive if:
- You are in a serious accident
- You are stricken by a debilitating illness
- You go into a coma
- You are receiving end-of-life care and cannot communicate
You may also need an advance medical directive if:
- You have a debilitating condition that will get worse over time, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
These directives are important not only because they help guide your care but because you can entrust your well-being to someone who is familiar with your values, needs, and preferences.
The Different Kinds of Advance Healthcare Directives
In Arkansas, there are three main varieties of advance healthcare directives. They are:
- Living will. A living will explains to your loved ones and healthcare providers what decisions should be taken if you have a terminal illness or are found permanently unconscious—for instance, you are in a coma or have suffered brain death. A living will details the extent of your desired care and can stipulate a time at which you should be removed from life support.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. When you grant someone the durable power of attorney for healthcare, they will have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf should you ever become incapable of doing so.
What to Consider When Issuing Advance Healthcare Directives
Even though you should have advance medical directives, you do not want to write a living will or grant someone the durable power of attorney for healthcare without first committing serious thought to each document’s implication.
When you choose someone to make medical decisions on your behalf, you should ensure that they meet Arkansas’ requirements for a healthcare agent or proxy, are not your doctor or otherwise part of your care team, and that they:
- Can be trusted to fulfill your wishes
- Are willing to discuss important, emotionally charged life-and-death concerns
- Will act in your best interest, even if it goes against their own
- Live close enough to your primary residence to be present, in-person or over the phone, whenever they are needed
- Are willing to advocate aggressively on your behalf, even if your loved ones or physician disagrees about a treatment or outcome.
How an Attorney Can Help
While the state of Arkansas gives residents broad authority in creating a living will or designating someone a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney, all of these documents must meet certain legal standards to be considered valid. An estate planning attorney can help you determine not only if your plan can stand up to challenges but how it matches with your other long-term goals and aspirations.
Ideally, advance medical directives should be part of a comprehensive estate plan: a plan that protects not only your health and assets but ensures the safety of your wealth, family, and business, too.
Contact Us Today
If you need help making sense of advance healthcare directives or wish to create or review an estate plan, contact us to schedule your initial consultation today.