Advance Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

What is Advance Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care? Basically, this is the document that: (1) appoint an agent to act on your behalf, if you become incapable of making your own decisions, and (2) direct the doctor and the agent on what to do. If you are hospitalized and become incapable of making your own decisions, you may exhaust your heath insurance coverage, leaving you and your family are financially responsible to pay the remaining hospital bills. The Advance Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows the agent to carry out your wishes, including termination of life support.

Your agent will have the right to:

  • Consent or refuse consent to any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or otherwise affect a physical or mental condition;
  • Select or discharge health-care providers and institutions;
  • Approve or disapprove diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and programs of medication;
  • Direct the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration and all other forms of health care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and
  • Make anatomical gifts, authorize an autopsy, and direct the disposition of your remains.


Who is the Agent?

An agent could be anyone, in my case, I chose my wife to be my agent. In addition, you could choose alternate agents in case the primary agent is unwilling or unable to make the decision. In general, the agent should be someone that would look after the best interest of you and your family, but is strong enough to make difficult decisions, which may include ending your life support.

It’s a good idea to have a conversation with people you are planning to assign as agent, prior to committing the document. At the least, you want them to know what to do in case you are incapable of making your own decisions, as well as, make sure that he or she is willing to take the responsibility.

Suze Orman’s Will & Trust Kit

With Suze Orman’s Will & Trust Kit, this first step was fairly easy. The program starts you off with a brief audio discussion about the document (with transcript if you prefer to read). Then the program takes you through a series of interview questions that include three main parts:

  • Information about my primary agent, first alternate agent, and second alternate. Information includes their names, address, and phone numbers.
  • Decision about organ donation.
  • End-of-life decision, whether to prolong your life, or not.

The program also includes a tool that asks you information about your doctor(s) and creates a letter to your doctor(s). The letter instructs your doctor(s) to keep your advance directive and durable power of attorney for healthcare as part of your permanent medical records.

Lastly, the kit also includes a tool to help you revoke your advance directive and durable power of attorney in case you need to make changes. Specifically, the Revocation of the Advance Directive & Durable Power of Attorney document allows you to revoke the power you have given to an individual to make health care decisions for you, if you decided that the person you originally named is no longer the best choice.

I am hoping to complete the other three steps: (1) Revocable Trust, (2) Will, and (3) Financial Power of Attorney over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

About the Author

By , on Aug 8, 2008
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance. He is a licensed Realtor specializing in residential homes in the Northern Virginia area. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, and financial literacy author.

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Leave Your Comment (3 Comments)

  1. Lisa says:

    Although I’m not a big fan of Suze Orman (way too pro-divorce for me), I’m a big fan completing the above documents and not spending an arm and a leg in process. You don’t need her kit. So much can be found on the internet or at your public library. Yes, things need to be done properly and every state has its own way of doing things, but there are sweeping ways to do it (so you can be clear in every state – like the military does it). Just spend a little time googling. It is well worth it – necessary, in my opinion. Congrats on completing the first part! Don’t you feel a sense of relief?

  2. Jake says:

    DO IT!
    Even if you want to go back and tweak later, get something on paper and properly vetted. It feels like the ultimate in slogging through paperwork, but the human impact is huge. We had to go through a lawyer ‘cuz of special needs, but what a relief to have all in place! And remember to have properly notarized copies elsewhere (? with family) in case of some local catastrophe.

    Regarding the “Advanced Directive” be sure once you send copies to loved ones, that you verbally state what it’s says to them. This caused a great deal of heartache when I got a surprise call in the middle of the night to make a 1 minute decision about my Dad who was 3000 miles away. We had never discussed this, and I didn’t remember the one paragraph letter he had sent a year earlier. Little did I know, at the time, that I made the wrong decision (in his mind, not mine).

  3. MoneyGrubbingLawyer says:

    Congrats on taking the first step towards estate planning — it’s never a fun thing to do (unless you have a particularly morbid sense of amusement), but certainly something that everybody needs to consider.

    I’d be interested to hear how you find the rest of the Orman kit — DIY kits range from excellent to terrible, and I’m trying to keep a running tally those I would recommend and those I would not.

    On the topic of the Advanced Directive, it is unfortunate that some health care professionals (and family members, for that matter) either disregard or dispute these documents. Make sure your wishes are crystal clear and that the person you pick to carry out your wishes isn’t afraid to take a stand.

    Good luck with the next steps!

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