For those who always wonder what are advance directives or what is health care proxy, the information stated in this post will be of immense importance.
An advance directive is a form which provides power to someone else to act on your behalf if at a certain point in your life, you become unable to look after your affairs. Directives which are most common include Living Wills, Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies.
In the power of attorney, a person is listed, named or designated to act on your behalf in affairs that you could have taken care of on your own had you been capable of doing so. This person is generally referred to as the “agent”, although there are other terms for the person as well such as “attorney-in-fact”. The duties which your designated agent is authorized to handle include financial affairs such as real estate transactions, banking transactions, payment of bills, payment of taxes, matters regarding retirement as well as personal affairs such as taking care of personal and family matters.
The power granted in a power of attorney form can be given in order to ensure it continues to remain effective even if you become disabled or incapacitated. However, a power of attorney is incapable of granting your agent the authority to make decisions on your behalf regarding health care and similar matters. Health care matters and the authority to handle them are only listed in a Health Care Proxy. This type of directive enables you to nominate a trusted person, usually a family member, who would look after your medical care in the case you are unable to do it. Therefore, the power to take control of your health care decisions can only be mentioned in your health care proxy.
Among advance directives, one type of these documents which differs from others is a Living Will. It is different due to the fact that it expresses your personal desires in written form regarding the kind of medical treatment you wish for or don’t wish for in the case if you are ever permanently incapacitated. The wishes expressed in a person’s Living Will are directly concerned with the institutions or doctors providing you medical aid as well as the person or agent you have appointed under a health care proxy.
For people who don’t know what are advanced directives, they often confuse them with Testament (commonly termed a ‘will’) and the Last Will but these are used for entirely different reasons. Advance directives are in effect during your lifetime only and are voided upon death. On the other hand, a will only becomes effective upon the death of a person and decides the provisions of the distribution of their property.
To sum it up, with the help of advance directives in effect, a person can have a trusted individual to look after their affairs and manage them orderly at any point in that person’s life when he/she becomes unable to do so by him/her self.
What Is An Advance Directive?
Advance directives are a serious name for a serious document. Its job is to explain the kind of medical treatment you want to receive if you become too sick to communicate, or you’re unexpectedly unconscious for a prolonged period.
The idea around an advance directive is that you plan for contingencies in advance. It has to be a written statement that is appropriately signed, witnessed, and that complies with the governing laws in your state. You’ll also need to make sure that, once written, you communicate it to your spouse, physicians, nurses, and administrative staff in charge of caring for you.
When you’re creating this document, here are a few things you need to know:
- You don’t need an attorney to develop and complete an advance directive, but you may need a notary to witness your signature
- If you spend time in more than one state — and you live there part-time — you may need to create an advance directive for both states
- Until you create a new or updated advance directive, the “old” one remains in effect
- Only hospital personnel can validate and follow your advance directive. Parallel medical professionals like paramedics and emergency medical technicians won’t recognize or act according to a medical power of attorney or living will
Preparing an advance directive requires significant thought and intention. You’ll need to organize your priorities and have some uncomfortable but honest conversations with your family members. These conversations will also help you determine which advance directive instrument is right for you.
There are a variety of advance directive documents that convey your preferences in extreme circumstances. Some are intended specifically for medical emergencies and situations while others govern your estate.
Think about an advance directive document as a series of decisions that reflect your values and the meaning of life for you when your life hangs in the balance.
A living will is designed to express whether you wish to be administered particular life-saving treatments or procedures in case you become too terminally ill to communicate. This can include heart-lung machines, ventilators, and tube-feeding. These procedures and medical techniques may prolong your life but may not necessarily cure you.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney are all about designating power to one particular person about your financial decisions. It’s not intended for healthcare provisions and, instead, you would use health care proxies for medical contingencies.
Health Care Proxies
Health care proxies transfer your will and power to make decisions about yourself and your health to another, appointed individual. These documents designate a person to be your health care surrogate, and it’s up to this individual to legally make decisions about your life on your behalf.
That’s a useful distinction because it means you don’t have to plan out every situation exhaustively. If you’re ever in a position of becoming unconscious suddenly, or you’re not in the mental state to make any decisions about your next steps for treatment, your health care surrogate would carry out your wishes, rather like your representative.
Pro-Tip: If you know an individual you love and trust has conflicting religious, moral, or ethical views, don’t compromise them — or expect them to carry out your wishes with their viewpoints or values. Otherwise, you risk jeopardizing their beliefs and your own values about life.
The American Bar Association sees health care proxies as a vital and authoritative source of guidance, capable of avoiding conflict between your family members and medical professionals. Nobody will be forced to make hard decisions about your life with an advance directive in hand.
Does an Advance Directive Need to Be Notarized?
You don’t have to create an advance directive document, be it a living will or a health care proxy, from scratch. Federal law requires that every hospital in your state have forms on hand for advance care planning. Your local hospital must also communicate details on the ever-changing regulations for advance directives to patients in their service area.
Once you’ve filled out these forms, your state may require the signatures of witnesses, a notary public, or both. These signatures and the notarial act may be the linchpin between a document that is valid and legally binding, or not.
Whether or not your home state calls for an official notarization by a notary public, every state in the U.S. requires your advance directive to be signed by witnesses. Some states require both witnesses and notary publics to sign advance directives. A few also have distinctions about creating a separate document for your health care directives and another document specifically for naming your proxy.
States have rules for who qualifies as a witness. In Massachusetts, for example, witnesses signing an advance directive document cannot also be named as an “agent” (or designated surrogate) for a health care proxy. Rules for eligibility avoid conflicts of interest.
A majority of states call for the presence of two witnesses to sign your health care directives. These individuals are verifying, in writing, that you appear to be of sound mind and that you are signing the documents without any third-party influencing your decision. Now, this may sound familiar — attesting to an individual’s state of mind and mental capacity to sign a document is a part of a notary official’s duties.
This is why some states will only qualify documents whose signatories include both witnesses and notary public officials.
If your state requires you to notarize your advance directive documents, you’ll have to pay a small fee to work with a notary. However, in exchange, you’re bringing greater transparency to the signing.
A notary public is a state-appointed individual who holds a high level of integrity, recognized by the government, and so authorized by the state to verify signatures. They may also be required to keep a journal about the transaction. The individual will watch you sign the document and then may sign it themselves. They’ll also attach the right form for the act, stamp or seal your document with their commission details, and include notary language on the document.
A notary public’s only duty is to witness your signature and sign the document to confirm witnessing. They’re not attesting to the veracity, nor to the contents of the document itself – and some states such as California require that notary publics make this clear through the forms they attach.
Historically, completion rates for advance directives hover at 18% to 31% of those who begin to draft these crucial documents — and many stop when it comes time to validate and sign advance directives officially.
Language or low health care literacy may be factors that contribute to low completion rates, but difficulty accessing a notary public really shouldn’t be. You’re already at the end of doing the heavy lifting and crafting this document. So, the last thing that should stop you is a lack of notary resources in your community.
If you live in a state that sees notarizations as mandatory, the fastest and most efficient way to access these individuals is through a mobile notary service.
Contact Superior Notary Services to get started with reliable, on-demand notary services in your area. From mobile notary services to traveling notaries, we’ll manage the paperwork and come to your location, 24/7, across the U.S.
What Is An Advance Directive and Does an Advance Directive Need to Be Notarized?