An advance directive, also called an advance health care directive or a living will, is a legal document that states what health care decisions should be made on your behalf, if you are unable to make your own decisions. KRBK’s recent article, “How to Create an Advance Directive in Oregon,” offers some tips on creating this document for its citizens.
In serious or life-threatening medical situations, there are frequently many decisions to make. They include life-support and a feeding tube, if you’re unlikely to recover. An advance directive helps answer many of the medical questions, when physicians are unable to ask patients how they want to be treated.
Advance directives in the state of Oregon require you to complete a form provided by the Oregon state government (or a close substitute) to create an advance directive.
There are four primary parts to this form, and you can limit the scope of the document to a certain period of time. Otherwise, it will be effective, until either you revoke it in writing or you pass away.
The first section concerns the appointment of a health care representative, sometimes called a health care surrogate or a designated agent. By appointing an individual as your health care representative, you’re transferring decision-making power to her, in the event you cannot direct your own health care. The second part is the health care instructions. This section is the part that relates most closely to a conventional living will. Here, you can specify any unique wishes you want your healthcare providers to honor, if you become incapacitated.
You also need to state, if you want life support and/or tube feeding in four different circumstances:
- if you’re near death;
- if you’re permanently unconscious;
- if you have an advanced progressive illness; or
- if you’re under extraordinary suffering.
You can say yes to any and all of these, or you can also choose to leave those specific judgments up to your doctor.
The form’s third section is for your witnesses to sign. To be binding, you’ll need two different witnesses to sign the document with you. They need to either see you sign the document or see you acknowledge that you signed. By signing, your witnesses are stating that you are who you say you are, and that you’re of sound mind and not under duress. When selecting your witnesses, you can’t choose the person you named as your health care representative, and you also can’t choose your doctor. One of your witnesses also can’t be a spouse or a blood relative.
The last section is for your health care representative and your alternate representative (if you want to name one). Your representative, by signing, is saying that she’ll act in good faith on your behalf and acknowledges that you can revoke the directive at any time.
Advance directives are also sometimes known as living wills. This can make things confusing, especially with living trusts and last wills. All three can have to do with end-of-life situations, but each is different.
A living trust transfers control of assets to a trustee. This is different from a will, because it happens while you’re still alive. The trustee manages the assets for you and can continue to do so after you die. If you create a revocable trust, you’ll be able to transfer assets in and out if you want; but an irrevocable trust doesn’t allow you to do that. You can also say if or when you want the trustee to dissolve the trust and transfer assets to your beneficiaries.
A will, or a last will and testament, outlines what you would like done with your assets after your death. After you die, an executor will carry out your wishes through a court process called probate.
Contrast this to a living will: it doesn’t have anything to do with your estates or your assets. A living will relates to the way in which you want to receive or not receive medical care, once you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.
Preparing for end-of-life situations can be a difficult task, but it’s extremely important. You can eliminate ambiguity for your doctors and family by clarifying your wishes ahead of time. Work with an estate planning attorney for all of these documents.
Reference: KRBK (October 31, 2018) “How to Create an Advance Directive in Oregon”