Advance directives are legal documents that serve as crucial pillars in both estate planning and preparations for potential medical complications. If you live in Colorado and you’re considering creating an advance directive for yourself, this guide will walk you through the basics of what it is, how to create it and if it’s right for you.
When it comes to making plans for the end of your life, talking with a financial advisor can ease the process significantly. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three financial advisors in your area. All you have to do is fill out a short survey. Your advisor can help you sort out your general finances, plan your estate and prepare for all the possibilities that may arise.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive, also known as an advance health care directive or a living will, is a legal document that outlines what health care decisions should be made on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions.
There are many different decisions to make in any medical situation. Situations dealing with serious illnesses or end-of-life situations are no exception. Do you want doctors to try to keep you alive no matter what even if you’re suffering? Where do you stand on risky surgeries? If you do pass away, would you prefer a burial or a cremation? Advance directives answer these questions in advance, allowing doctors to act according to your wishes.
How to Create an Advance Directive in Colorado
In the state of Colorado, your advance directive doesn’t need to follow a specific format or structure as long as it meets the requirements of state law. Having said that, it can make things easier to create your directive with a pre-made form. Many hospitals and health care organizations have forms available online. By working with a template, you can be sure you’re meeting all the requirements. Also, doctors will be able to better recognize and follow along with your wishes.
There are three primary types of advance directives in Colorado. These are the Medical Power of Attorney, the CPR Directive and the Living Will. You have the option to create all three or any combination of the three.
The Medical Power of Attorney directive allows you to appoint an individual to stand in for you if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. What that means is by filling out this form, you designate an individual of your choosing to make any and all medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. You can put limitations on that authority if you wish, and you can also list an alternative agent in case your original agent is unavailable. The Medical Power of Attorney directive requires only your signature, although the Colorado Health Institute recommends you have witnesses and a notary sign if possible.
The CPR Directive is a more narrowly focused form than the other two. You can use it to direct doctors to withhold CPR if your heart or breathing stops or malfunctions. You will need a physician’s signature in addition to your own signature for this to be effective.
How to Create an Advance Directive in Colorado – Living Will
The Living Will allows you to list instructions for your health care in addition to or instead of naming an agent. You can provide as many or as few instructions as you wish. However, there are at least two situations you should provide your views on. First, you should note if you would like doctors to prolong your life even if they determine that your death is imminent. You should also express what you wish to be done if you become permanently unaware of your surroundings or unable to interact with others.
Once you’ve expressed everything, you’ll need to sign your living will along with two witnesses. There are some limitations as to who can serve as a witness for you. First, both witnesses must be above the age of 18. You can’t choose your doctor or any employee of your health care facility. Also, neither can be your agent or your alternate agent, and neither can be someone who would knowingly gain a financial benefit from your death.
Should You Get an Advance Directive?
If you’re wondering whether you should create an advance directive or not, you should primarily consider two things. First, think about your medical history. Does a scenario in which you’re unable to make your own medical decisions seem likely, either in the near future or at the end of your life? If so, then an advance directive might be a good idea for you.
The things is, you can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen in the future. So, the second thing you’ll want to think about is your medical preferences. How would you wish to receive treatment in a hypothetical end-of-life situation? Do you have issues with any treatments or procedures? Doctors and other healthcare professionals are obligated to work to keep you alive in all situations. If you’re opposed to something like life support, then, you’ll likely need an advance directive to avoid that safely.
Advance Directive vs. Living Trust vs. Last Will
Like we mentioned, advance directives also go by living wills. Consequently, it’s easy to confuse them with both living trusts and last wills. All three of these documents are similar, as they can each deal with preparing for end-of-life situations. However, each of them are individual documents.
A living trust is a legal document that transfers control of your assets to a trustee during your life. Your trustee manages the trust on your behalf, and after your death, he or she can continue to do so. A living trust can be either revocable or irrevocable. This essentially means it can flexible to allow you to move assets in and out of the trust or not. You can also specify if or when you want the trustee to dissolve the trust and transfer assets to your beneficiaries.
A last will and testament also goes by a will or a last will. It’s a legal document outlining your wishes for what to do with your estate and assets after your death. You can specify one or more beneficiaries, and an executor will make sure to carry out your wishes after your death.
A living will, as we have stressed, has nothing to do with your estate or your assets. Rather, it handles how you would like to receive medical care once you’re unable to express those wishes.
An advance directive can significantly streamline your process when it comes to planning for the unthinkable. By putting your wishes in writing or naming a decision-maker ahead of time, you can do away with ambiguity for both your doctors and loved ones. If you have strong opinions about how you would like to handle any serious medical issues or if you think there’s a good chance you could become incapable of making your own medical decisions, then it could be sensible to consider an advance directive.
Tips for Planning Your Estate
- If the idea of estate planning has you immediately anxious, a financial advisor could be a big help. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three qualified financial advisors in your area. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your financial situation. Then, the tool will do the rest of the work for you so you can get the help you need.
- When it comes to preparing for serious medical issues, having the right health insurance is extremely important. Make sure to choose a plan with a deductible that’s appropriate for your situation, and check that your doctors accept the plan.
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