Advance healthcare directives: there’s more than one choice

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Advance Healthcare Directives Theres More Than One Choice

Estate planning is about more than just what happens when you die. It also includes things like trusts and Medicaid planning, which can be important tools while you’re still running around and enjoying life. Advance healthcare directives are yet another prong of good estate planning, to take care of those situations when you are unable to handle them yourself.

What is an advance directive?

Simply put, an advance directive is a choice, or series of choices, you make regarding your own healthcare. It takes the form of a legal document, which ensures that your choices are honored if you become incapacitated and require treatment. You have a couple of different types of advance directives to choose from.

Proxy directives

Also known as a power of attorney, a proxy directive is when you appoint another person to act for you. Typically, this is a family member or other trusted individual. They become your healthcare representative, should you be incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. The incapacitation can be caused by an accident or illness and it may be either temporary or permanent. Either way, your proxy decides what treatments you do or do not receive, so that your wishes are followed to the best of their ability.

Instruction directives

Also known as a living will, an instruction directive is targeted toward your physician or other healthcare professional. In the directive, you specify what procedures or treatments you do or do not wish to receive, and the circumstances under which you would or would not want to receive them. Like the proxy directive, an instruction directive only applies should you become incapacitated.

It’s important to note that a proxy directive and an instruction directive can go hand-in-hand. Completing both ensures that this part of your estate planning, at least, has been thoroughly covered. The instruction directive will control in any situation you anticipated, while the proxy directive will take over for those instances you did not anticipate.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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