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What is an Advance Directive?


Chances are you have heard about this document while visiting the doctor at some point, but do you know what it is and why you need one? Often referred to as a “Living Will”, an Advance Directive is a legal document that allows you to make incredibly important health care decisions for yourself before that treatment is necessary and, most importantly, while you are actually able to make those decisions! Again, these are difficult discussions to have, but they are necessary to avoid even more difficult situations down the road. A person’s preferences as it relates to medical treatment are extremely personal, and if you are unable to discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of pursuing a particular course of treatment as the result of an illness or injury, then your preferences are unknown. The decisions, at that point, are left up to your next of kin and their best guess as to what you “would have wanted”. Instead of that undesirable guessing game for your family, having a properly laid out plan allows your family to know EXACTLY what your preferences are because you made those decisions when you were physically able to.

What Exactly Does An Advance Directive Do?

If you are unable to communicate with a doctor regarding medical decisions, that responsibility typically falls to your next of kin. As part of your Advance Directive, you have the ability to select your Health Care Agent. This individual can be anyone that you would like – family member, friend, co-worker, etc. It is imperative that you not only trust the person selected as your Health Care Agent, but also that they are willing to accept the responsibility of ensuring that the care you are receiving is in line with your wishes. You also have the option of selecting a Back-Up Health Care Agent, in the event that your Primary Agent is unable to unwilling to fulfill their duties. The most common types of treatment that are associated with an Advance Directive are whether you wish to be placed on (1) Life Support, (2) Use of Feeding Tubes, and (3) Pain Relief medication. End of life care is an incredibly delicate and difficult decision, and it is one that is very personal to each and every individual person. Making sure that the people that are tasked with making sure the medical staff’s course of treatment is compliant with your wishes is of the utmost importance.

What Can Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake Do For You?

Whether your preferences are based on personal or religious beliefs, ensuring that your medical treatments are in line with those beliefs, when you are not able to voice those preference yourself, is important for you and your loved ones. It would be our honor at SZL to assist you in making the Estate Planning decisions that best suit you and your family’s individual situation. SZL is happy to offer a Free Consultation to help determine the best estate planning approach for your particular situation. If you have any questions, Justin can be reached at any time by email at or at 410-884-6100. Thank you for considering SZL to help you with your estate planning!