Over your lifetime, you will make thousands of decisions regarding your own healthcare and medical treatment. Some of those decisions will be routine ones while others may be life changing. All those decisions, however, will be made by you. What happens though if you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself at some point in your life? One way to ensure that your wishes regarding your own healthcare treatment will be honored if you are incapacitated is to execute an advance directive. A Murfreesboro estate planning attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains advance directives and why you should incorporate advance directives into your estate plan.
Advance Directive Basics
Advance directives are governed by state law, meaning each state determines which type will be recognized within the state and the language necessary to create a valid advance directive. In general, however, an advance directive is a written statement reflecting your wishes regarding healthcare decisions and/or treatment.
Why Do I Need an Advance Directive?
People often make the mistake of associating incapacity with old age. The odds of becoming incapacitated because of physical or mental deterioration do increase with age; however, incapacity can strike at any age. Regardless of when or why you become incapacitated you may not be capable of expressing your wishes and/or making medical treatment decisions for yourself. That means that someone else will need to make decisions for you. Executing the appropriate advance directive now allows you to choose who that person will be and ensures that deeply held beliefs about end-of-life care will be known and your wishes honored.
If incapacity causes you to be unable to make medical treatment decisions for yourself, someone will need to make them for you. Without the appropriate advance directive in place a judge may have to decide who will make those decisions. If more than one family member wants to be the one to make those decisions for you it can lead to a bitter and costly court battle. The same applies if decisions must be made about end-of-life care. Like many people, you may be adamant that you do not want to be kept alive through artificial means and/or by machines. Conversely, you may feel strongly about allowing specific end-of-life medical treatment or care. For example, you may want to be given pain medication in lieu of life-prolonging procedures. Without an advance directive to provide guidance, your loved ones could end up in court battling over these issues.
Tennessee Advance Directives
The State of Tennessee recognizes two types of advance directives. You may execute any, or all, of them. The two advance directives available include:
- Appointment of Health Care Agent. This advance directive lets you name someone (your “Agent”) to make decisions about your health care. Unless otherwise written in your advance directive, your Appointment of Health Care Agent becomes effective when you when your designated physician determines that you are no longer able to understand the significant benefits, risks, and alternatives to proposed health care and to make and communicate a health care decision. If you want your Agent to make health care decisions for you now, even though you are still capable of making health care decisions, you can indicate that in your advance directive. You can also name an alternate Agent.
- Individual Instruction. This is Tennessee’s version of a “Living Will.” It allows you to give specific instructions about any aspect of your health care, including your wishes regarding conditions you would and would not be willing to live with if given adequate comfort care and pain management. You can also make decisions relating to situations that cause your quality of life to become unacceptable and your condition is irreversible.
Contact a Murfreesboro Estate Planning Attorney
If you have additional questions about an advance directive, or you wish to execute one, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro estate planning attorney by contacting the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.