ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Understanding the Advance Medical Directive

An Advance Medical Directive is an integral part of your estate plan, but it is often the most misunderstood.

You may have heard the terms “Living Will” and “Medical Power of Attorney” used interchangeably with “Advance Medical Directive.” But how do they all fit together?

Your Advance Medical Directive (AMD) allows you to provide written directions to your medical providers in the event you become unable to make your own medical decisions. It typically consists of a “Living Will” section, in which you direct the types of end-of-life treatment you would want in the event that you could no longer make those decisions yourself, and a “Medical Power of Attorney” section, in which you name an agent who could make other basic medical decisions for you in the event that you were no longer able to do so yourself.

For many of our clients, the Living Will portion of an Advance Medical Directive lists situations in which the individual would not want extraordinary measures (e.g., artificial respiration, feeding tubes, hydration) to be taken, including when the individual has been diagnosed with a terminal condition from which he or she does not have a reasonable chance of recovering. Other individuals direct that in such a situation, life-prolonging procedures should continue to be utilized for as long as possible, and still others direct that life-prolonging procedures continue for only a specified amount of time, after which if there has been no improvement in their condition, those procedures should be withheld. These decisions are highly personal in nature, and this section should be carefully tailored to accurately reflect your wishes.

The Medical Power of Attorney section allows you to name an agent to make all other medical decisions for you, in the event that you cannot. Under Virginia law, except for a few limited circumstances, the determination that you are unable to make medical decisions must be made by your attending physician and another licensed physician or clinical psychologist. Once you have been deemed incapable of making your own medical decisions, your agent may make just about any medical decision you could have made for yourself, so long as they do not contradict your wishes about end-of-life treatment as set forth in the Living Will section. You can name a single individual or a group of individuals (either unanimously or by majority vote) to serve in this capacity. We strongly recommend that you name at least one successor agent, to serve in the event that the preceding agent becomes unable to serve.

Before speaking with your attorney about this document, in addition to the considerations discussed above, you should also consider the following:

• Do you consider feeding tubes (nutrition) and hydration to be “life-prolonging procedures” that you would want withheld or withdrawn in the event you had no reasonable chance of recovering?

• Do you want to authorize your agent to make a gift of any of your organs or tissues (or to donate your body to science)?

• Do you have any medical conditions for which you know you would like a certain type of treatment administered or withheld?

• Do you have religious beliefs which dictate that certain medical procedures be avoided?

As you can see, creating an Advance Medical Directive involves making decisions that are highly personal in nature and that will vary from individual to individual. Although it’s easy to find a form Advance Medical Directive online or at your local hospital, these “fill in the blank” types of documents often fail to address the options adequately and are easily misunderstood. As with all estate planning documents, we recommend that you seek the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney in creating an Advance Medical Directive.


If you are interested in having an Elder Law attorney from The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. speak at an event, then please call us at:

Maryland (301) 214-2229
Virginia (703) 243-3200
Washington DC (202) 223-0270

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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