Short answer: Now. It’s never too early to create an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD). Thinking about the future and not having control over your medical treatments can be challenging. But with proper planning the burden on your family and loved ones can be lessened, especially if you are deemed “clinically incapacitated” by a physician and are not in the proper mental state to make your own decisions.
Don’t believe that will happen to you? Think about this statistic: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.1 million people over the age of 65 are suffering from the disease, and by 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million.
This is why planning your AHCD in advance, before the age of 65, before you are suffering from medical conditions, is of extreme importance. When someone is declared, “clinically incapacitated,” that’s when the advanced health care directive becomes effective and everyone is legally bound to follow the accord.
Parts of an Advanced Health Care Directive
An AHCD consists of two parts. The first part allows you to set up a “medical proxy” or “health care proxy.” This person will make medical treatment decisions for you when you are unable to do so. The second part allows you to write specific instructions in regards to medical treatment commonly referred to as a “living will”. Doctors are legally bound to follow your instructions but will refer to the medical proxy if there are medical treatments that are not addressed in the AHCD.
The purpose of an AHCD is to provide a clear statement of wishes about your choice to either prolong your life or to decline medical treatment. This article states, you can also choose to request relief from pain even if that might expedite death. As long as you are still deemed medically capable all power to make medical decisions will be still left in your hands. Remember, the ACHD doesn’t become effective until you are declared, “clinically incapacitated.”
In the same way, that it’s never too early to plan your Advanced Health Care Directive, it’s never too late either. If you already have created legal documentation about your future health care, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be revised as well. In fact, it’s recommended that you update your AHCD after certain events happen in your life such as a major birthday (turning 70 or 80), a sudden death to a loved one or divorce (making sure you change your medical proxy), a diagnosis of a terminally ill disease or a sudden health decline (making sure everything is in order). With the advancement of medical technology, people are able to live much longer lives, so it’s important that your wishes are well documented for any situation.
If you are thinking about creating an Advanced Health Care Directive or would like modify your current one, contact an experienced probate and estate-planning lawyer such as Mikel J. Hoffman.
The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding creditors or any federal or state tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.