Advanced Directives

Did you know that many advance directives don’t include the authority to make mental health decisions? That’s why it’s vitally important to protect yourself and your loved ones.

The mental healthcare power of attorney, or POA, is probably the least known of the advance directives. As with healthcare and financial powers of attorney, this document is critical for all Arizonans, regardless of age or health status.

Mental health POAs are important in ensuring your loved one gets effective care. Without a mental health POA, family members and friends stand by helplessly when a loved one experiences an episode of mental illness, unable to intervene until their loved one’s condition deteriorates severely enough to meet state law standards for involuntary commitment and treatment. A mental health POA is also important because it can ensure you know your loved one’s wishes in advance and have the authority to carry them out.Did you know that many advance directives don’t include the authority to make mental health decisions? That’s why it’s vitally important to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Without a mental healthcare POA, if inpatient behavioral health treatment is required and you’re unable or unwilling to accept treatment, the only other option is for someone to pursue an emergency guardianship.

Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that delegates an individual’s legal authority to another person. If an individual is incapacitated or mentally incompetent, the POA assigns a trusted party to make decisions on his or her behalf.  It’s hard to argue that anyone does not need a power of attorney.  Here’s what you need to know about putting a power of attorney in place.

Many Power of Attorney documents are “durable.”  The word “durable” means the Power of Attorney will still be effective  even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. A Durable Power of Attorney must state that “this Power of Attorney shall not be affected by the subsequent disability or incompetence of the principal” or similar words. The powers you give to your attorney-in-fact will remain effective even though you are unable to give your agent instructions.  Without these special words, your agent will not be able to use the Power of Attorney when you are unable to manage your own affairs, which is when most people want it to be used.

When you give someone a Power of Attorney, you still have the right to control your money and property.  However, you are giving your attorney-in-fact the ability to access your money.  Your agent is not supposed to take or use your money without your permission, but there is a risk that a dishonest or unscrupulous agent might steal your money.  It is therefore very important to choose an agent you trust.

Such a legal document can help you protect your right to make medical choices that influence your life and the lives of your loved ones. It can protect your family from the stress and responsibility of having to make difficult choices about your medical care. It can even help your physician by providing specific guidelines for your care. If you would like more information about establishing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, talk to your physician, attorney, or other appropriate person.

living will, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. It has no power after death. Living will can give invaluable guidance to family members and healthcare professionals if a person can’t express his or her wishes. Without a document expressing those wishes, family members and doctors are left to guess what a seriously ill person would prefer in terms of treatment. They may end up in painful disputes, which occasionally make it all the way to a courtroom.

By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.

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 prepare these documents.