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Advance Directives: What You Should Know

Your Advance Directives (sometimes mistakenly called your "Advanced Directives") are your expression of the types of healthcare treatment you wish to receive if you are ever in an irreversible condition and unable to speak for yourself. They typically accompany a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.

What exactly are advance directives?

An Advance Directive provides instructions for your future healthcare. You should write them when you are healthy, to come into effect when you are no longer able to speak for yourself. The Advance Directive is sometimes referred to as a "Living Will" and we provide this document under our MyLivingWill™ service.

It should not be confused with your Last Will and Testament, that only comes into effect after you have died. The Advance Directive is in effect only when you are alive. Your Advance Directive is most commonly used together with a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare (LPA-HW). The LPA allows you to appoint a person to make decisions on your behalf, but they can turn to your Advance Directives for guidance on those decisions. The LPA-HW can be created on the gov.uk website and must be registered with the government to be legally accepted.

Why is an Advance Directive important?

Your Advance Directive will give guidance on the types of medical treatment you wish to receive. It takes the decision-making away from your family and loved ones. If you become seriously ill, you may lose the ability to participate in decisions about your own treatment, so providing this guidance is a tremendous help to your loved ones.

Living Will

A Living Will is another name for your Advance Directives, and generally states the kind of medical care you want (or do not want) if you become unable to make your own decisions. It is called a Living Will because it takes effect while you are still living.

Here at LegalWills.co.uk, we take care of the Advance Directive for you, through our MyLivingWill™ service.

A "Living Will" goes by many different names. Some examples are: "personal directive", "health care directive", "advance health care directive", or just simply "advance directives". However, it is distinct and different to any Lasting Power of Attorney document.

Regardless of what you call it, the LegalWills.co.uk MyLivingWill™ service will format a legal document that allows you to express your wishes for healthcare if you are ever unable to speak for yourself.

Lasting Power of Attorney for Finances

A Lasting Power of Attorney for Finances is a signed, dated, and witnessed paper naming another person, such as a husband, wife, daughter, son, or close friend, as your authorized spokesperson to make financial decisions for you if you should become unable to make them for yourself.

In the UK, you can create this document free of charge from the gov.uk website. It must be registered with the government for a fee before it will be accepted as a legal document.

A "Power of Attorney" goes by many different names, including: "durable power of attorney", "enduring power of attorney", "continuing power of attorney for property", or "durable power of attorney for finances". In the UK, the government has settled on "lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs".

Will my wishes be honoured if I am not in the UK?

The law on honouring an advance directive from one country to another is inconsistent. However, because your advance directive discusses your wishes regarding medical care, it may be honoured wherever you are, if you make it known that you have an advance directive. But if you spend a great deal of time outside of the UK, you may wish to consider having your advance directive meet the laws of your new home if possible.

Is it a requirement to prepare an Advance Directive?

No, there is no legal requirement to prepare an Advance Directive. You can also prepare one, and then destroy it, or make changes to it at any time.

If you wish to cancel an advance directive while you are in the hospital, you should notify your doctor, your family, and others who may need to know. Even if you do not formally change your advance directive in writing, your wishes stated in person directly to your doctor generally carry more weight than your written document, as long as you are considered to be competent when expressing your wishes.

Make sure that someone, such as your solicitor or a family member, knows that you have an advance directive and knows where it is located. You might also consider the following:
  • Ask your GP to make your advance directive part of your permanent medical record.
  • Keep a copy of your advance directive in a safe place where it can be found easily.
  • Consider creating Keyholders® at LegalWills.co.uk and grant them access to your MyLivingWill™ service.
  • Keep a small card in your purse or wallet stating that you have an advance directive, where it is located and who your agent or proxy is, if you have named one. LegalWills.co.uk allows you to order wallet cards specifically for this purpose.

Is an Advance Directive right for me?

Your Advance Directive serves two key roles. Firstly, it can make your doctor aware of the medical treatment you wish to receive, particularly with respect to "end-of-life" care. These are very personal decisions and should ideally be made when you are healthy and competent.

In addition, by making these decisions yourself, you spare your family the anxiety and trauma that can be associated with making these decisions on behalf of a loved one. Many people create Lasting Powers of Attorney without explaining to their appointee what types of treatment they wish to receive. This is the role of your Advance Directives.