As Virginians prepare for the future by creating an estate plan, it is easy to forget about ancillary aspects that could be important. In addition to a will, a trust and other documents that will determine where their property will go after they have died, advanced medical directives can add peace of mind by providing their agent with clear and detailed preferences for health care.
Specifically, an advance medical directive can provide a guideline as to what type of care will be given to the person if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. To ensure the document is valid and effective, it is wise to have assistance with crafting the document from a legal professional who knows precisely what it should say to adhere to the person’s wishes and to be valid and enforceable.
How should an advance directive be completed?
In Virginia, an advance medical directive can be written at any time by an adult capable of making informed decisions. See Virginia Code § 54.1-2983. The advanced medical directive will state their wishes for all types of health care if they are found to be incapable of stating what they want when it is time to decide on treatment. It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
The document may provide for the following:
- What health care treatments the declarant does or does not authorize
- Name an agent who will make decisions in their stead
- Specify if they want to donate parts of their anatomy after they have died
The advance medical directive can be done orally if an attending physician states the person has a terminal illness or condition. This will serve the same purpose as a written advance medical directive.
There is a specific form the advance directive should take. It will clearly state that the person is making the decision voluntarily and if they are in a situation where they cannot make decisions on their own, they name an agent to do so in their place.
The advance directive can state, for example, that the person does not want to be kept alive through artificial respiration or the person wants certain life-saving treatments
For advance directives and estate planning, having professional help can achieve goals