When it comes to estate planning and making arrangements for the medical unknown, an advance directive can be extremely important. If you live in Oklahoma and you’re wondering if an advance directive is something you should draft up, this guide will help you understand what advanced directives are, how to make one and if it’s something you need.
Talking with a financial advisor can do a lot to ease the process of preparing for the end of your life. 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.
Serious medical complications almost always bring plentiful decisions to make with them. Do you want to be kept alive no matter what, even if you’re suffering? Should you undergo a risky surgery? If you do pass away, do you prefer a burial or a cremation? Advance directives help to limit questions in medical situations in which doctors are unable to ask patients how they wish to be treated.
How to Create an Advance Directive in Oklahoma
Advance Directives in the state of Oklahoma follow Title 63, Section 3101.1 through 3101.16 of the Oklahoma Statutes. These statutes also go by the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act. To make the process of creating your directive easier, pre-made forms are available online from the Oklahoma Department of Health. Advance directives in Oklahoma have three primary elements. These are the living will, the appointment of a healthcare proxy and the direction of anatomical gifts. You have the option to create all three or any combination of the three.
With the living will, you can outline how you wish to receive treatment in a list of instructions. You can do this instead of or in addition to appointing a proxy. Your instructions can be as specific or general as you wish, but you should make sure everything is clear. Furthermore, you should weigh in on at least two scenarios. 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.
Appointing a healthcare proxy allows you to designate an individual to stand in for you as the primary health care decision maker. Your proxy can make decisions based on your living will or knowledge of your wishes. You can put limitations on your proxy’s authority if you wish. You’ll just need to make sure you explain these limitations thoroughly. You can also list an alternative agent in case your original agent is unavailable.
There are two primary methods by which you can make an anatomical gift. The most common method is being part of the organ donor registry. The other is to donate your whole body for medical research or training.
Once you’ve expressed everything, you’ll need to sign your advance directive 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. Additionally, neither witness can be entitled to any part of your estate or 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.
Of course, you never really can predict what’s going to happen in the future. Because of this, you’ll also have to consider your medical preferences. What kind of treatment would you want in a hypothetical end-of-life situation? Are there treatments or procedures that you wish to steer clear from? Your physician has an obligation to try to keep you alive under any circumstances. Consequently, if you don’t want to be put on life support, then an advance directive would help to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Advance Directive vs. Living Trust vs. Last Will
Advance directives can 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 legally binding arrangement allowing you to transfer control of assets to a trustee while you’re still alive. The trustee manages the assets on your behalf and can continue to do so after you die. If you create a revocable trust, you’ll be able to move assets in and out if you wish. An irrevocable trust doesn’t have that option. 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, which also goes by a last will or simply a will, is a legal document outlining what should be done with your estate after your death. You can name a beneficiary or multiple ones if you wish. After your death, an executor will make sure to carry out your wishes.
A living will, as we have stressed, doesn’t have anything to do with your estates or your assets. Rather, it concerns how you wish to receive or not receive medical care once you can no longer make those decisions alone.
An advance directive can greatly lessen the stress of one of the most stressful situations we can encounter in life. You can eliminate ambiguity for your doctors and family by outlining your wishes ahead of time. 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 an advance directive could be a sensible thing to consider.
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. Advisors can also help with issues like the estate tax.
- 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.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/pabradyphoto, ©iStock.com/Halfpoint, ©iStock.com/cstar55