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Advance Directives

The focus of our last couple of articles has been on estate planning documents that allow legal decisions and more to be made for a person who is no longer capable of making such decisions themselves. This article will introduce a related and somewhat-overlapping document, the advance directive.


Whereas conservatorships and powers of attorney allow another person to make a wide variety of decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person, an advance directive is a type of legal document that allows a person to make their own medical decisions in advance and/or appoint someone to make medical decisions for them should they become unable. There are two main types of advance directive, and these two types are sometimes combined into a single document simply referred to as a person's advance directive.


The first type is one that we have already briefly mentioned; the medical power of attorney. A medical power of attorney allows a person to specify another to make medical decisions for them if the person becomes unable to do so him or herself. In Tennessee, this is generally referred to as "appointing a health care agent." This is considered a type of advance directive because it relates to the person's advance planning of medical decisions in case of incapacitation. The complex interactions between these and other estate planning documents, such as a general durable power of attorney, can cause issues if created sub-optimally, so be sure to consult with an attorney about how this might interact with your specific situation.


A living will is a different type of advance directive that allows a person to specify certain kinds of medical treatment they will or will not receive if they become incapacitated and near the end of life. In Tennessee, this type of document is often called an "Advance Care Plan." It can also operate together with a medical power of attorney, leaving certain medical decisions to the health care agent while others are made in advance via the living will.


Finally, a couple of other things that are commonly discussed in relation to advance directives. A Do Not Resuscitate order, commonly called a "DNR," is an order from a physician that is placed in a person's medical file informing their caregivers that the person does not wish to be given CPR if their heart has stopped or if they have stopped breathing. If a person wants a DNR, a clause requesting that the person not be resuscitated is often included in the person's living will. If the person wishes to become an organ donor, that is often included in the living will as well.


These documents and clauses may all be part of a comprehensive estate plan. Be sure to contact a reputable attorney if you have questions about your estate plan or how this information might impact your specific situation.


Disclaimer: This blog is published solely for informational purposes, and nothing posted herein should be considered legal advice. By viewing this blog and/or the posts contained herein, you agree that no attorney-client relationship is created between yourself and the Sents Law Firm. Information found within this blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a reputable attorney. Please consult such an attorney for any questions regarding the topics discussed in this blog and how they may impact any specific situation.