Fundamentals of Advance Directives in Ocean County, NJ
As a Legal Document, You Need to be Fully Aware of the Facts about Advance Directives in NJ
Most of us do not consider a time in our future where we may lack the ability to make important medical decisions for ourselves, but this reality may be only an accident or diagnosis away. Planning for your future should involve more than an estate plan for how your assets will be divided when you pass; you must also consider and document your wishes for your life while you are still alive, but may lack the capacity to make medical or end-of-life decisions for yourself.
The Advance Directive Document in NJ
In New Jersey, an advance directive is a legal document that allows a person to detail their preferred medical treatments and end-of-life treatment options. Advance directives also enable a person to select a representative to speak on their behalf if a time comes when they cannot make healthcare decisions for themselves. An advance directive allows people to make binding medical and healthcare decisions for their future selves if they become incapacitated. It combines two legal items: health care proxy designation and a living will.
Having an advance directive ensures you receive the medical attention you would have chosen for yourself had you been healthy enough to direct it. It also eases the pressure on your loved ones to decipher what your wishes would have been. Or, perhaps worse, what they believe is in your best interest, even if they know it goes against your beliefs. If you are incapacitated without an advance directive, your loved ones will decide for you.
Purpose of an Advance Directive
The purpose of any advance directive is to clarify your preferred medical treatments and end-of-life treatment options when you cannot enforce those decisions yourself. While your loved ones may not agree with your preferred medical treatments or end-of-life treatment options, it’s important to have them understand your wishes. Even with an advance directive, speaking to those closest to you is still advisable.
An advance directive in New Jersey combines two distinct legal items into one document: (1) Proxy Directive, essentially a durable power of attorney for healthcare, and (2) Instruction Directive, also known as a living will.
a. Proxy Directive
A Proxy Directive is a document you will use to name a person to make medical decisions in your stead. Your assigned representative or agent will decide based on what you have listed in your living will. Generally, the person you appoint to make healthcare decisions will follow your living will and speak to your family members. If the living will is silent on an issue, then the proxy directive has final authority in deciding for you. That decision will be based on what they believe is in your best interest.
b. Instruction Directive
An Instruction Directive is a document that details your preferences for various medical treatments. You can include specific instructions for your physician and family about the types of medical care you want. For example, you can include whether you wish to donate your organs in the event of an accident. You can state whether you want life-sustaining treatment, ventilators, or feeding tubes. You can also disclose religious rules regarding treatment and post-mortem care.
Instruction Directives can also include a description of beliefs, values, and general care and treatment preferences. These instructions may guide your loved ones, especially your Proxy Directive if a specific situation arises that isn’t accounted for. That way, the best decision can be made in light of your beliefs and wishes.
The Process to Create an Advance Directive
To implement an advance directive, there are two different forms provided by the New Jersey Commission on Legal and Ethical Problems in the Delivery of Healthcare. These are the Proxy Directive form and the Instructive Directive form. New Jersey allows you to fill out one or both forms.
The Proxy Directive form allows you to transfer your healthcare decision-making authority to another person. The person you appoint will have full authority to make decisions on your behalf. It’s also a good idea to name an alternate person in case your primary agent is unavailable.
The Instruction Directive allows you to write all your wishes in one document. Should the Instruction Directive be needed, it can be found in one place. There are at least two situations that you should provide your views on.
New Jersey law requires that the document be signed before two witnesses for an advance directive to be legally binding. Your witnesses are to attest to your state of mind. Essentially, the witnesses must state that you willingly signed your advanced directive. The only caveat is that the two witnesses cannot be named proxies in the directive. The witnesses cannot be your treating physician either.
When is an Advance Directive Put Into Effect?
An advance directive will activate or go into effect when it is determined by your physician that you lack capacity to make healthcare decisions and cannot understand your diagnosis or treatment options. Within your advanced directive, you can require a second opinion to confirm the medical opinions of the first.
Changing an Existing Advance Directive
Under the law, you can change your existing directive whenever you choose. To change an existing directive, you must complete a new one. The new advanced directive must be dated and signed by two witnesses who are disinterested parties and who can testify to your willingness.
Talk to an Attorney at Bronzino Law Firm about Drafting an Advance Directive in Toms River, NJ
While you are not required to utilize the assistance of a lawyer at Bronzino Law Firm when creating an advance directive, having a lawyer’s help will ensure that your directive is enforceable and that you have included all of the information you want to include when it matters most. For more information and help to create an ideal Advanced Directive to meet your needs in Mantoloking, Barnegat, Toms River, Middletown, Freehold, Brick, Rumson, Sea Bright, Spring Lake, and across Ocean and Monmouth Counties, contact our skilled estate planning legal team today for a free consultation. Do not hesitate to contact us at (732) 812-3102 to schedule a free consultation, or you can also use our online intake form, and we will reach back to you.