When it comes to estate planning and making plans for the medical unknown, an advance directive can be extremely significant. If you live in Texas and you’re wondering if an advance directive is something you need, 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.
There are a great many different decisions to be made in just about any medical situation. Those dealing with serious illnesses or end-of-life situations are no exception. Would you like doctors to try to keep you alive no matter what? Are there certain surgeries you don’t want to undergo? If you do pass away, do you want a burial or cremation? Advance directives answer these questions ahead of time so that your physicians know your wishes without having to speculate.
How to Create an Advance Directive in Texas
In the state of Texas, advance directives are available thanks to the Advance Directives Act, which is explained in detail in chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety code. You have some flexibility regarding what specifically you’d like your advance directive to accomplish. There are four different forms that you can fill out, each accomplishing a slightly different objective. These forms can be accessed on the website for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
The two primary forms are the Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates form and the Medical Power of Attorney form. While many states have one form that acts as a combination of these, Texas divides them into two forms.
The Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates is the closest of these forms to a typical living will. With it, you can express any wishes you have about how you wish to receive (or not receive) medical treatment at a time when you are unable to express those wishes in the moment. These wishes can be as vague or as specific as you make them. You can outline if you wish to be put on life support or not, if you wish to receive pain medication or not, any specific treatments or surgeries you’re opposed to or anything else you may want to include.
Medical Power of Attorney
By filling out a Medical Power of Attorney 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. This differs from the previous form. Instead of outlining how you wish to receive treatment, you’re leaving it up to a specific person to outline it for you when/if the time comes.
Designating an individual to be your agent is mandatory to complete the form, but you have the option to give additional detail if you wish. First, you have the option to put limitations on your agent’s authority. So if, for instance, you don’t want to undergo a certain surgery, you can limit your agent’s decision-making power to make sure he or she can’t choose that. Second, you have the option to designate two alternate agents if your first agent is unavailable.
If you wish to dictate in advance the types of mental health treatment you receive, you’ll want to sign a Declaration for Mental Health Treatment. This form is a bit more specific than the first two we’ve discussed. Signing this allows you to decide if you want to receive three specific treatments, including psychoactive medication, emergency mental health treatment and convulsive therapy.
The final available form is the Out-Of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order. Like the Declaration for Mental Health Treatment, this form is much more narrowly focused than the first two. You can fill out this form if you would like to direct health care professionals in out-of-hospital settings (a physician’s office, clinic, etc.) to forgo resuscitation attempts and allow you to pass away naturally. To complete this form, you’ll need two witnesses and a physician to sign off on it. Even then, though, there are some qualifiers. The form will be automatically null if you are pregnant or if health care providers suspect unnatural or suspicious circumstances. The form doesn’t go into detail on what those circumstances could be.
Should You Get an Advance Directive?
When determining whether an advance directive is right for you or not, you’ll need to consider two things. First, think about your medical history. If you think there’s a decent to good chance that you could enter into a situation where you can’t make your own medical decisions, then an advance directive is likely an important thing to have. If you don’t foresee that situation as likely, then an advance directive would be less likely to come into play.
The thing is, predicting medical situations decades in advance is a tricky business. Because of this, you’ll also want to consider your own medical preferences. How would you wish to receive treatment in a hypothetical end-of-life situation? Are there treatments or procedures that you are opposed to? 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 safely avoid that.
Advance Directive vs. Living Trust vs. Last Will
Advance directives can also go by living wills. Because of this, it’s easy to mistake them for 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 your assets for you, then he or she continues doing so after you die. 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 express specifically when you would like the trust to dissolve, transferring the assets to any beneficiaries that you’ve named.
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 name a beneficiary or multiple ones if you wish. After your death, an executor will make sure to carry out your wishes.
We’ve touched on what a living will is. It doesn’t have anything to do with your estates or your assets, but rather how you wish to receive or not receive medical care once you can no longer make those decisions alone.
An advance directive can be an extremely helpful tool for a very stressful situation. 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 fixed preferences regarding how you would like these serious medical issues handled or if you think there’s a good chance you could become incapable of making your own medical decisions, then an advance directive would likely be something to strongly 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.
- 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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