An advance directive is a legal document that allows an individual to direct what they want to happen in the event that they become incapacitated. This is an important tool to ensure that what a person wants for their future is carried out and so that a Colorado court is not forced to make a decision instead.

There are two primary types of advance directives: powers of attorney and living wills. Each state has its own laws regarding advance directives. A power of attorney appoints a person to make important decisions about the legal or financial person of another. A living will states what a person wants to happen regarding medical treatment in case they become incapacitated.

A living will states whether the individual wants life-sustaining treatments at the end of life, such as resuscitation or tube feeding, if they are no longer able to express their wishes due to incapacity. Living wills can be very specific about whether a person wishes to receive antibiotics, artificial life support or mechanical ventilation. A living will may also state an individual’s desires regarding organ donation and burial plans.

It is important to have honest and ongoing conversations about personal wishes with a person chosen to serve as power of attorney. The person named in an advance directive should be comfortable making difficult decisions about future medical treatment.

To make an advance directive legal, it should be put in writing. An elder law attorney may be able to assist individuals who want to create a power of attorney or living will as part of a comprehensive estate plan. An elder law attorney may assist clients by drafting legal documents, discussing options with clients and ensuring that all provisions comply with state law.

It is essential to seek legal advice when amending an advance directive. For example, if a person wants to replace a former spouse with a current spouse as a power of attorney, an attorney is responsible for making sure laws regarding revisions are followed.