Annapolis, Maryland Advance Directive Attorney
At The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown, our Annapolis estate planning attorneys understand the importance of creating a comprehensive plan that safeguards your future health care decisions, whatever they may be. An Advance Directive is a powerful tool that allows you to proactively plan for your medical care in the unfortunate event that you cannot make such decisions on your own. These legal documents can offer a sense of security and peace of mind for everyone involved, ensuring that your specific preferences for future health care are clearly communicated to health care providers, family members, and those who may be responsible for your well-being.
When you work with the experienced attorneys at our Annapolis law office, we will guide you through the process of Advance Care Planning and help empower you to make informed decisions regarding your future. To learn more about Advance Directives or to schedule a consultation with The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown, give us a call at (443) 554-9944 or reach out to us online today.
What is an Advance Directive?
An Advance Directive, also known as Advance Medical Directive or Advance Healthcare Directive, is a legal document that is very similar to a living Will in that both documents allow individuals to express their medical treatment preferences in the event they become incapacitated and are unable to make their own decisions. However, the difference is that an Advance Directive encompasses a broader range of legal documents, including (but certainly not limited to) a living will. As such, an Advance Directive may include health care instructions as well as additional elements, such as appointing a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions.
An Advance Directive is an important estate planning tool used to assist clients planning for incapacity by appointing an agent who is trusted to make decisions on their behalf. This “health care agent” is responsible for expressing the incapacitated person’s wishes in the event of an end-stage medical condition, a terminal condition, a persistent vegetative state, or any other condition which incurs no reasonable hope for recovery. Commonly, an Advance Directive also describes a person’s wishes for organ donation and preferences for burial or cremation.
Duties of a Health Care Agent
A health care agent, also commonly known as a Medical Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney, plays a crucial role in representing an individual’s healthcare preferences when they are unable to make medical decisions themselves. This agent is entrusted with making critical medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person while ensuring that their wishes are respected and followed as outlined in the Advance Directive.
When medical decisions arise, especially those concerning life-sustaining treatments, the health care agent collaborates with health care professionals to understand and assess the available options and determine the most appropriate course of action. They may have discussions with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to ensure the individual’s predetermined wishes are respected and upheld.
In cases where the primary agent is unavailable or unable to fulfill their duties, the Advance Directive may also designate an alternate agent to step in. The alternate agent assumes the same responsibilities and must be ready to make decisions in the best interest of the individual. It is essential for the agent, whether primary or alternate, to be well-informed about the person’s preferences regarding pain relief, certain treatments, and end-of-life care.
More specifically, the health care agent’s responsibilities may include making decisions about the use of feeding tubes, administration of pain relief medication, resuscitation, or the withholding or withdrawal of specific medical treatments based on the person’s stated wishes. It is up to them to ensure that the person’s medical orders are followed and that their dignity and autonomy are respected throughout their healthcare journey, even in the face of difficult choices that may lead to death.
When Does an Advance Directive Take Effect?
An Advance Directive goes into effect as soon as it becomes clear that you are unable to decide on or communicate your wishes pertaining to medical treatment. Once again, this is typically in the event that a person suffers an end-stage or terminal condition or vegetative state.
Benefits of Having an Advance Medical Directive
An Advance Medical Directive is probably one of the most important documents a person can have as part of their estate planning package because it provides an active voice for their preferences during his or her lifetime during a time when they may not be able to express these preferences themselves. Another primary benefit of having an Advance Medical Directive in place is that it may avoid the necessity of having a guardian appointed for a person to make health care decisions when he or she begins to lack capacity. Initiating a guardianship proceeding in Maryland or the District of Columbia can be a costly and often lengthy proceeding.
Considerations When Appointing Advance Medical Directives
Before designating an agent, it is crucial that a person trusts the nominees to accept and carry out their wishes. Therefore, it is essential for individuals to discuss their preferences, including their personal beliefs and opinions regarding life-sustaining treatment and other important medical decisions, with their health care agent. This way, their health care agent is fully prepared to make painful decisions regarding life support, nutrition, and hydration in the event that a person is in an end-stage condition, has a terminal illness, or is in a permanent vegetative state with no reasonable hope for recovery.
It’s also critical to evaluate whether that person may be able to make those consequential decisions, especially at a time where necessary decision-making is overwhelming. For example, a spouse or family member may not be able to make the difficult decision of ending life support. Instead, the appointment of somebody close to them that may be a little bit further removed may have the clarity needed to make that decision if it best expresses their wishes.
How To Create an Advance Directive in Maryland
Under Maryland law, an individual creating an Advance Directive must be of sound mind and must express their wishes through a written or oral statement. The Advance Medical Directive can be in either physical or electronic form, known as an Electronic Advance Directive.
When creating Electronic Advance Directives, individuals may use an electronic document that is securely stored and accessible to relevant healthcare providers when needed. Many people choose to utilize Docubank as a preferred means of storing electronic copies of their Advance Directive. This service allows users instant access to critical medical information, which can prove extremely convenient during medical emergencies.
To ensure its validity, the document must be witnessed by two individuals who are not named as beneficiaries or the attending physician. They may witness the document creation in either physical or electronic presence. The two witnesses must also attest that the person creating the Advance Directive appears to be of sound mind and is making the decisions voluntarily. It is also important to note that in today’s society, it is also important that your Advance Medical Directive be accompanied by a HIPPA release, as it gives hospitals and health care providers the release to speak with your agents when necessary.
While creating an Electronic Advance Directive is certainly valid, the best way to go about creating this imperative document is generally with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Your attorney can make sure everything is legally sound and in proper order according to Maryland’s state laws.
“Don’t forget to provide a copy of your advance medical directives to your primary physician. During some life-threatening events, your primary physician’s office may be reachable faster than a loved one.”
Raymond E. Brown
Can You Make Changes to an Advance Directive in Maryland?
For as long as an individual has the ability to make decisions for themselves, they may make any changes to their Advance Directive as they see fit. They may also choose to revoke the Advance Directive completely. If changes are made to the document, it is important that you promptly relay this information to your doctor, health care agent, and anyone else who may have a copy.
Call The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown for Assistance With Advanced Healthcare Directives in Maryland Today
We know that making decisions regarding your future can be emotional and challenging, especially when it comes to the idea that you may not be able to express these decisions yourself. That is why we strive to offer knowledgeable and compassionate representation and guidance for those seeking assistance with Advance Medical Directives in Maryland and D.C. We will make sure that you are comfortable and informed every step of the way, giving you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your wishes will be carried out the way you intend.
In addition to Advance Directive planning, The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown also specializes in living Trust creation and funding, Wills, Medicaid Planning, Estate and Trust Administration, and more. Whatever your estate planning needs, we are here to help. Give our Annapolis estate planning attorneys a call at (443) 554-9944 today to get started.