What are advanced written directives (AWD) and what are they used for?

There are two types of AWD that clients are recommended to consider, namely, medical and financial directives.

First, the medical directives typically include a health care proxy and a living will. A health care proxy permits you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

A living will is a separate document containing your specific instructions concerning medical treatment to be administered (or withheld) should you ever become incapable of making treatment decisions in the future.

The second type of AWD, the financial document, is a statutory durable power of attorney. This is a written document by which you select and appoint a trusted person (your agent) to manage your property and/or financial affairs in the event of your incapacity. A power of attorney can also be used, with the your authorization, to assist you at a time when you have capacity but could use help with your financials affairs.  Should you become unable to handle your own affairs and you have not appointed an agent, a court may appoint a guardian to make decisions about your property and you may have no control over the selection of that guardian.  A guardianship proceeding can result in substantial courts costs and legal fees and often produces family disharmony, particularly over the question of who will serve as your guardian.

Posted in: Estate Planning and Elder Law