Health Care Directives
Make Sure Your Medical Wishes Are Followed
A Washington advance health care directive allows you to make important decisions about your future health care so your physicians know what you want if you aren’t able to tell them in the moment.
What is an Advance Health Care Directive?
An advance health care directive, as the name suggests, is a document in which you provide advance instructions for your medical care. In Washington, the scope of and requirements for this directive are included in the state’s Natural Death Act.
The advance directive isn’t intended to provide complete instructions for your medical care. If you are incapacitated, most decisions will fall to your health care agent. If you don’t have a medical power of attorney, those decisions will be made by the family member designated by law to make such decisions.
Rather, the advance directive allows you to provide instructions regarding life-sustaining care in the event of an irreversible, terminal condition. The instructions you provide in a properly executed advance directive are presumed conclusive under Washington law, meaning that neither your family nor your health care agent can override your wishes.
An Advance Health Care Directive can be Revoked at Anytime
Like most legal documents, an advance health care directive can be revoked at any time. You can replace your advance directive with a new document containing different instructions, or you can simply revoke the directive and no longer have one in effect.
In fact, you can revoke an advance health care directive even if you lack the mental capacity to legally execute most documents. The decision will be yours for as long as you are able to voice your wishes. You can even revoke an advance directive by simply telling the treating physician that you want to revoke it, though it is better to use a more formal method if you have the option.
Advance Health Care Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney
While an advance directive addresses the high-level end-of-life issues, it’s not sufficient to address all of the medical decisions that may be necessary if you’re incapacitated. That’s why a health care directive is typically coupled with a health care power of attorney (POA). A health care POA grants a trusted person of your choosing the authority to make medical decisions if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. An experienced Washington estate planning lawyer can explain in more detail how these two documents work together, and discuss how to choose the right person to serve as your health care agent.
At Harbor Law Firm, we make estate planning as simple and stress-free as possible. That means:
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