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As a competent adult living in the State of New Jersey, you have the right to control your own medical care. This includes not only the right to decide between treatment options for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries, but also the right to decide whether to receive or terminate extraordinary life-saving medical support.
But, what happens when you are no longer able to communicate your healthcare decisions? In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, you need to plan ahead. In New Jersey, this is done through the use of a legal document known as the “advance directive.”
New Jersey law recognizes three types of advance healthcare directives. These are: (i) the proxy directive, (ii) the instruction directive, and (iii) the combined directive.
The proxy directive, also referred to as a power of attorney for healthcare, is used to appoint someone else to make decisions about your medical treatment on your behalf. Your appointee, known as your “healthcare representative,” is only authorized to make decisions when you are unable to do so (as determined by your physician) due to an illness or injury that prevents you from understanding your diagnosis, your treatment options or the potential risks of treatment.
In your proxy directive, you can place restrictions on the scope of your healthcare representative’s authority; and, to ensure that your healthcare representative is not left to make decisions on your behalf without guidance, it is important to be as thorough as possible when preparing your proxy directive. There are certain restrictions that need to be taken into consideration as well (such as limits on who you can appoint as your healthcare representative), so it is advisable to craft your proxy directive with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
An instruction directive is a form of advance directive that is also commonly known as a “living will.” The instruction directive is your opportunity to establish specific guidelines with respect to life-saving medical treatment in the event that you are legally incapable of making decisions on your own. Unlike a proxy directive, an instruction directive does not involve the appointment of a surrogate decision maker. In the event that you are unable to make decisions about your medical care, your physician and family members will be obligated to follow the instructions in your directive.
A combined directive merges the benefits of a power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. With a combined directive, you can appoint a trusted loved one or advisor to make decisions on your behalf when necessary, while also providing specific instruction that will apply under the appropriate circumstances.
Choosing the best type of advance directive for your situation requires a careful assessment of your health, your family and financial circumstances, and a variety of other factors. Like all other aspects of preparing an estate plan, putting together an advance directive is not a task to be taken lightly. To learn more about the options you have available, we invite you to schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.
If you would like to speak with an attorney about preparing or updating your estate plan, we encourage you to get in touch. To speak with one of our experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyers in confidence, please call 1-877-435-6371 or request your free consultation online today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.