6 Benefits of Having an Advance Health Care Directive

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If you’re struggling to find time to create your advance health care directive, look no further. Here are 6 of the top benefits to creating your advance health care directive today.

#1 Choose who can make health care decisions on your behalf

If you don't proactively name an agent and are unable to make decisions yourself, the power of who can make those decisions for you will be chosen 'automatically' by your state government's default priority rules. Those default rules may or may not match your own wishes.

Additionally, the default rules may make multiple individuals eligible to serve at once. If more than one individual step up to serve as agent and there is a disagreement among this group, decisions may reach a stalemate.

#2 Provide general or specific guidance for your agent on your end-of-life care preferences

If you become unconscious in a tragic ski accident, suffer severe and prolonged memory loss, or any other number of unfortunate events, you may temporarily or permanently lose the ability to make and communicate health care decisions. By stating your health care preferences in advance, you can provide important guidance to your loved ones, health care agent, and attending medical team regarding the type of care you wish to receive.

#3 Provide general or specific guidance for your agent on your mental health care preferences

Similar to expressing your preferences for end-of-life care, you can express preferences for mental health care in a mental health care directive. Those preferences may include designating certain medication you prefer over others, your favored pre-emergency intervention protocol, the facility or types of facilities through which you would like to receive care, and your preferred physicians or medical team, among other designations.

#4 May avoid guardianship or conservatorship proceeding or appointment of agent under statute

If you are diagnosed as incapacitated and have not named an agent under a medical and/or general power of attorney, the court may appoint a guardian or conservator responsible for your person or your estate.

As was the case with Britney Spears, this process may result in an undesirable appointment of a family member who has substantial control over your life and finances. If none of the family members or other individuals dictated by state statute are available or willing to act, or if there is a conflict in the family over who should be the decision maker, the court may even appoint a third-party professional firm to the role. For all the cinematic exaggerations that exist in the Netflix hit I Care A Lot, the underlying premise and alert to the potential dangers of such an arrangement is sadly not without truth.

The process for establishing a guardianship or conservatorship without a power of attorney can be a costly and burdensome process, and it requires ongoing court oversight. By naming your choice for agents in advance, you can eliminate these complications, speed up, and reduce the cost of these proceedings.

#5 Make emergency decisions regarding care of minor children

Do you have minor children and ever travel out of town for extended periods of time?

If your minor child has a medical issue during one of these occasions and attending medical staff is unable to reach you or the child’s other parent, without an advance health care directive there may not be any person authorized to obtain protected health information and make medical decisions for the minor.

#6 Provide 'spousal power' for unmarried partners

If you are unmarried and in a committed relationship in which you want your partner to make health care decisions for you if needed, you must do so through an advance health care directive.

In the eyes of the state, fiancés, boyfriends, girlfriends, and other partners are at the bottom of the decision maker totem pole along with any other adult who “has exhibited special care and concern for the patient, who is familiar with the patient’s personal values, and who is reasonably available to act as surrogate” (UHCDA, 5(c)). The best way to bring them to the front of the decision making is with a medical power of attorney and/or naming them in a HIPAA Release, both of which you can include in an advance health care directive.