What is an Advance Directive?
Advance Directive is an umbrella term used for documents you create that either express your wishes regarding health care decisions or name someone who is able to speak for you if you cannot express your wishes yourself. If you do not have someone who can speak for you, a court-appointed guardian will be needed.
In Wisconsin, there are three main documents commonly referred to as Advance Directives: Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will (officially called a Declaration to Health Care Professionals), and a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (a DNR).
A Health Care Power of Attorney is an extremely important document to have. In your Health Care Power of Attorney, you appoint someone (your “Agent”) to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them on your own. Care should be taken in selecting your Agent, as they will be speaking for you after you have been declared incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions.
A Living Will (or Declaration to Health Care Professionals) is a document that expresses your wishes related to life sustaining procedures if you are in a persistent vegetative state or have a terminal condition. It is important to note that this document does not replace your Health Care Power of Attorney. Your Agent will always override your Living Will when there is a contradiction between the two. This is why we highly recommend having conversations with your Agent about your end of life and other medical wishes.
A Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (a DNR) is only issued by your doctor. You must qualify to have the DNR based on your current medical condition. The DNR is a written document you sign that becomes part of your medical record.
Advance Directives should be part of your comprehensive estate plan. Without a Health Care Power of Attorney, your loved ones will be forced to have the court appoint a guardian for you should you become incapacitated. Planning ahead will save you and your loved ones the time, expense, and emotional toll associated with a guardianship appointment. Please contact us to discuss your Advance Directive needs.