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Living Wills and Advance Medical Directives

Living wills and other advance directives describe your preferences regarding end-of-life care. Because unexpected situations can happen at any age, all adults need advance medical directives.

Living wills and other advance directives describe your preferences regarding treatment if you’re faced with a serious accident or illness. These legal documents speak for you when you’re not able to speak for yourself — for instance, if you’re in a coma.

Living wills and other advance directives aren’t just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults to have advance directives.

Advance medical directives: More than just living wills

Advance directives are written instructions regarding your medical care preferences. Your family and doctors will consult your advance directives if you’re unable to make your own health care decisions. Having written instructions can help reduce confusion or disagreement.

Advance directives may include:

  • Living will. This written, legal document spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don’t want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube feeding or resuscitation. In some states, living wills may be called health care declarations or health care directives.
  • Medical or health care power of attorney (POA). The medical POA is a legal document that designates an individual — referred to as your health care agent or proxy — to make medical decisions for you in the event that you’re unable to do so. However, it is different from a power of attorney authorizing someone to make financial transactions for you.
  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order. This is a request to not have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing. Advance directives do not have to include a DNR order, and you don’t have to have an advance directive to have a DNR order. Your doctor can put a DNR order in your medical chart.

Do you need a living will and a medical POA?

A living will can’t cover every possible situation. Therefore, you might also want a medical POA to designate someone to be your health care agent. This person will be guided by your living will but has the authority to interpret your wishes in situations that aren’t described in your living will. A medical POA also might be a good idea if your family is opposed to some of your wishes or is divided about them.

For more information about advance medical directives and the process to prepare a living will please contact The Law Office of Richard W Hartman III at (703) 255-7005.


About Richard W. Hartman III
Richard W. Hartman III founded The Law Office of Richard W. Hartman III, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC to provide clients with honest, ethical, efficient, quality legal services.

Mr. Hartman began his career with a boutique trust and estate law firm, concentrating his practice in the administration of trusts and estates, which included the preparation of fiduciary accountings for trustees, executors and conservators. While working with that firm he also represented fiduciaries and beneficiaries alike in litigation involving challenges to the validity of wills and trusts, as well as protecting the interests of beneficiaries. Mr. Hartman also spent a considerable amount of his time with that firm assisting clients with guardianship and conservatorship matters.

Through those experiences Mr. Hartman came to desire a better way to serve clients and practice his profession. It became clear that offering his professional services directly to the general public was the best way Mr. Hartman could assist clients while maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards for himself, his work product, and his firm. This realization led Mr. Hartman to form The Law Office of Richard W. Hartman III, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC.
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