Written by: Cynthia Neutson

What is an Advanced Directive? An Advanced Directive, also known as a Living Will, is a legal document that states what medical treatment you do, or do not want, in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot convey these wishes for yourself.

Why do you need one? Over the decades the cases of Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Terry Schiavo have brought into public view issues over the right to die and the right to accept or refuse medical treatment. Their cases demonstrate the need for Advanced Directives and Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNRs) and the unfortunate result of not having these documents in place.  By utilizing Advanced Directives to directly state your medical treatment wishes, you lessen the pressure on family and medical professionals by providing them with a guide on what medical treatment you would choose. This in turn decreases the chance of conflicts arising between family members, medical professionals and facility administrators over those decisions. Because Advanced Directives are legal documents, your decisions regarding medical treatment must be followed by medical professionals and the facility in which you are treated. Should you be receiving treatment in a facility whose own policies conflict with your directives, the facility must allow you to be transferred to a facility where your directives will be respected and followed. Advanced Directives are often coupled with a Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare which allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you.

It is important to understand that Advanced Directives and Durable Powers of Attorney for HealthCare only apply to healthcare decisions and do not apply to any financial matters, so it is recommended that you also create a Durable Power of Attorney to handle your finances should you become incapacitated.

If you are interested in adding an Advanced Directive to your Estate Planning documents, our Trusts and Estates Attorneys will be happy to work with you. You may contact the Hill Wallack LLP Trusts & Estates practice group at 215-579-7700 or estates@hillwallack.com.