None of us ever want to imagine ourselves in a situation where life or death decisions must be made for us while we are unable to express our own wishes. Nonetheless, it happens, and if it does, the importance of having an advance directive cannot be overstated.
Still, only one in three adults in the United States has an advance directive. Older adults and those suffering from chronic diseases are more likely to have them, but everyone should. You never know when an accident or illness can strike and render you unable to express your wishes to healthcare providers.
If you have been thinking about creating an advance directive or updating an existing one, do not delay. Creating one is an important part of the estate planning process. Indeed, having an advance directive as part of your estate plan will put your mind at ease and ensure your loved ones do not have to make critical end-of-life decisions for you.
At Bischoff & Bischoff Law, P.A., we offer clients in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, and Valencia County, New Mexico 50 years of combined estate planning experience. We believe in delivering honest, responsive, timely, and cost-effective legal counsel to clients who entrust us with guiding them through some of life’s most difficult decisions.
An advance directive is a legal document that expresses your wishes regarding medical treatment in the event you are unable to communicate those wishes yourself.
Also called a “healthcare directive” or “living will,” the document communicates what measures, if any, you want healthcare professionals to take to prolong your life. This directive also expresses your wishes regarding care such as pain management and organ donation, and which medical professionals should make decisions regarding the state of your health or likelihood of recovery.
A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows you to appoint a family member or friend as your healthcare representative to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
Any adult with the mental capacity to do so can serve as your healthcare representative. You should choose someone who understands your wishes, your ideologies, and your faith traditions. Most people choose a spouse, family member, or close friend.
Your healthcare representative has the legal authority granted in the durable power of attorney for healthcare to make sure the wishes you have expressed in your advance directive are carried out. The representative only has this authority when it is determined that you lack the capacity to make decisions for yourself. That authority ceases if you regain the capacity to make such decisions.
Your representative should act in good faith and protect your best interests. While your representative will have the authority to make some medical decisions on your behalf, they cannot override the decisions you made in your living will.
If you do not appoint a healthcare representative, New Mexico law designates a succession list of individuals who may make decisions for you, including a spouse, adult children, parents, adult siblings, grandparents, and others. With an advance directive, you alone decide who that person will be.
You should provide your healthcare representative, as well as any alternates named in the durable power of attorney, with copies of your advance healthcare directive and the power of attorney. New Mexico law does not require that your signature on the durable power of attorney either be witnessed by adult individuals or notary public, but a notary’s endorsement or signatures of two witnesses is highly recommended.
You are the only person who can make modifications to your advance directive. You can choose a different durable power of attorney and revise your living will at any time, so long as you have the capacity to do so. Any updated or modified advance directives must be fully executed and will revoke any previous advance directives.
If you experience a health crisis and have the capacity to do so, you can also revoke your healthcare directive verbally to a healthcare provider.
Estate planning is not just about choosing who will benefit from your assets and personal property when you pass away. It should also include expressing your wishes for medical care should you be unable to speak for yourself at the moment. Documenting those critical decisions now and asking someone you trust to make sure they are carried out, is one of the greatest gifts you can leave your loved ones.
At Bischoff & Bischoff Law, P.A., we can help you understand the scope of healthcare decisions you should address, discuss options, and lead you through the process of documenting your choices. Hundreds of clients from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rancho Rio, Santa Fe, and Valencia County, including Los Lunas and Belen, count on our guidance. Contact us at our office today.