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Wills and Estate Planning

Advanced Directives in Maryland and DC

Wills and Estate Planning

Advanced Directives in Maryland and DC

You may be familiar with terms like a health care power of attorney or living will, but you may not have heard the phrase “advanced directive” until sitting down with an experienced DC and Maryland probate and estate attorney. Just like a living will, advanced directives can guide those you love by outlining your wishes when it comes to matters of your health if incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own. This is a crucial step in end-of-life planning for any individual that will make the ability for your family or chosen representative to care for you under difficult circumstances like a terminal illness or severe injury.

What is an Advance Directive?

Much like a power of attorney, this document authorizes a designated person to act on behalf of someone else in matters related to their health care. State law does not provide a specific form that must be used when creating an advanced directive, but there is a template you can download from government websites, or you can have an attorney drawn one up for you. Typically, to create a valid directive, you must be 18 years of age or older, be competent, and understand its provisions and authorizations.
 
Your advanced directive could apply to any number of issues, including:
 
  • Determining when life-saving or prolonging procedures should be withdrawn or withheld
  • Designate a guardian to represent you
  • Palliative care
  • Management of admissions and discharges from medical facilities like a hospital
  • Give authorization for an autopsy
  • Consent for donating your organs, tissues, and/or body
  • Allow your personal representative to request your HIPAA-protected health records 
  • Disposition of your remains
  • Whether your directive should be carried out while pregnant
 
Having a grasp of how this process works can be confusing, especially when it would come into effect or what you need to do to revoke it. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney regarding DC and Maryland law and how any legal limitations could impact your wishes on your advanced directive is a smart first step. Our team of lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl are well-versed and practiced in this area of law and are available to help explain these details and answer any questions you might have.

Who Should I Appoint as My Health Care Agent in My Advanced Directive?

State law gives you great freedom in deciding who should represent you if you become incapacitated with an advanced directive in place. Typically, a family member or trusted individual who understands your medical issues and concerns would fill the role of your health care agent. There are some individuals restricted from this position of authority over your life, including:
 
  • Health care facility owners, operators, or employees
  • Persons working for a subsidiary of the facility you are receiving treatment
 
At The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl, we feel having two health care agents is ideal if possible so that if your first chosen representative is unavailable, you have a backup in place. 

Do I Need an Advance Directive in Maryland or DC?

Everyone needs an advanced health care directive. You cannot predict unexpected events like injury or illness, and not having a plan in place can leave your family in a challenging situation legally if they want to help you. This document serves as a communication of your wishes to your medical care providers and family. It may be the only way your voice gets heard when important decisions regarding your health care get made.

Don’t Risk Your Wishes Being Ignored and Create an Advanced Directive Right Away

State law allows you to revoke your advanced directive at any time so long as you are competent under the law. This feature is what makes this estate planning tool convenient. Having complete control over our health is of critical importance, and advanced directives are flexible, allowing you to update them and make changes at any time. To revoke your order, you will either need to notify those with a copy of it that it is no longer valid, destroy the original, or create a new version and distribute it to those who need a copy of it.

Keep this notification rule in mind when handing out copies of your advanced directives. Every person or medical office that receives it will need to be notified if you rescind, revoke, update or replace it.

What If I Want to Revoke my Advanced Directive?

The estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl believe every individual and family should take steps to create a comprehensive, advanced directive regarding their health. With extensive experience assisting families throughout this great state, we cannot emphasize the potential for heartbreak and dispute should you become incapacitated without a directive. Contact our firm today at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280, or through our online form to set up a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs and questions surrounding advanced directives.

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