Living wills. Advance health care directives. Medical powers of attorney. While these terms may sound familiar to aging residents of New York, it’s likely that few are aware of everything these documents entail, and even fewer may have in place an advance health care directive. However, this legal document is powerful and important, and one that everyone, regardless of age, should consider.

An advance health care directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document that gives individuals the ability to exert some control and make their personal wishes known for medical care and treatment when they are unable to communicate those wishes directly. The document typically contains instructions for end-of-life medical treatment, but tries to address a variety of situations – such as a coma or degrading mental health – in which the person might become incapable of requesting or denying certain treatments or of making medical decisions. It can cover, for example, whether or not the person would wish to receive an organ donation, artificial nutrition or hydration.

An advanced health care directive also allows an individual to appoint a trusted friend or family member as a proxy. This proxy has medical powers of attorney to oversee the wishes within the directive and communicate with the medical professionals on behalf of the individual. The advance directive can even name an alternate proxy in the event that the first becomes unable or unwilling to fulfill his or her role.

With such weighty legal issues, it makes good sense to seek the guidance and counsel of a New York living will lawyer. An attorney with experience drafting advance health care directives can help ensure that all requirements are met, that the document is legally binding and that it’s in the individual’s best interests. While an advance health care directive can be drafted at any time, the individual creating the document must be competent and of sound mind, so it’s never too early to consider creating a living will.

Source:, “Expert Advice: “What is a living will, and why is it important?”“, Amy Beth Dobbins, Nov. 18, 2017