Warnes Law Office


Information about Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Advance Healthcare Directives: Who Will Decide if You Can't?

Many people know they should write a will to make sure their personal items make it into the hands of the people they choose. But not everyone realizes they should also plan for their future by writing Advance Healthcare Directives.

An Advance Healthcare Directive, sometimes called a Living Will, is a written statement of your wishes regarding your medical treatment that is created to ensure those wishes are carried out should you become unable to make decisions for yourself or communicate your wishes to a doctor. While you may not ever need Advance Directives, you may want to complete them in case you are in an accident and cannot make medical decisions for yourself.

Advance Healthcare Directives can be used to appoint a healthcare agent. This is someone who would speak on your behalf if you are unable. You should choose someone you trust to carry out your wishes or act in your best interest. You may choose a family member, but you do not have to. The Advance Healthcare Directives do not give your agent authority to handle your money. Speak to an attorney if you would like to appoint an agent to handle your financial affairs.

Advance Healthcare Directives can be used to state your preferences regarding life-sustaining treatment procedures in three situations: (1) when death from a terminal condition is imminent despite the application of life-sustaining procedures; (2) a condition of permanent unconsciousness called a persistent vegetative state; and (3) end-stage condition, which is an advanced, progressive, and incurable condition resulting in complete physical dependency.

Once you make an advance directive, it remains in effect unless you revoke it. It does not expire, and neither your family nor anyone except you can change it. You should review what you've done once in a while because your feelings or wishes might change.

You should discuss your wishes with your family members and give them a copy of the Advance Healthcare Directives. You should also take a copy of the Advance Healthcare Directives with you if you go into the hospital for any reason.

You will need two adults to witness the Advance Healthcare Directives. The witnesses cannot be your healthcare agent. At least one of the witnesses must be someone who will not financially benefit upon your death. You do not have to have it notarized.

If you have Advance Healthcare Directives from another state, it is valid in Maryland.

Maryland has a standard form you can use to complete your Advance Healthcare Directives. You do not need a lawyer to prepare it for you. However, if you do not understand something, or have questions about your rights, you should consult with an attorney to assist you.

We offer packages that include a will, advance healthcare directives and powers of attorney so you can get all of your documents prepared at the same time. Please feel free to contact us with questions.