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Questions & Answers About Advance Directives

What are Advance Directives?
Advance Directives are documents which state your choices about medical treatment or name someone to make decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to make these decisions. The two most common types of advance directives are:
 • Living Wills
 • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

What is a Living Will?
A Living Will
is a document in which you state the kinds of medical treatments you want, or do not want, when you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state and unable to make your own decisions. It is called a “Living Will” because it takes effect while you are still living, but not able to tell anyone your choices. It is important to understand that a Living Will is authoritative, which means it can not be overridden by the wishes of family members who might not agree with your decisions about your medical care.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document in which you name another person to act as your “attorney in fact” for you, if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Your representative may be:
• a family member
• a close friend

Your representative cannot be:
• your doctor or an employee of your doctor or health care provider (unless he/she is your relative)
• under 19 years of age
• any person already serving as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care for 10 or more people (unless he/she is your relative)

Your representative is guided by your instructions regarding any medical treatment you want or do not want.

May I appoint more than one person to share the responsibility of being my Power of Attorney for Health Care?
You should appoint only ONE person to be your “attorney in fact.” You may appoint others as alternates.

When do my Advance Directives become effective?
Your Advance Directives become effective only when you can no longer make decisions about your medical treatment. As long as you can make your own decisions, your health care providers rely on your judgement as to what to do.

May I have both?
Yes. It is often a good idea to have both written instructions about what medical care you do or do not want provided to you if you are terminally ill (a Living Will) and the name of the person to make decisions on your behalf about care when you are unable to do so (Power of Attorney for Health Care).

Do I have to prepare an Advance Directive?
No. It is up to you. The main reason to prepare an Advance Directive is to express your wishes if you become unable to state them yourself.

What if I change my mind after I sign an Advance Directive?
You may revoke it. At any time you may create a new Power of Attorney or Living Will. If you are a patient, tell your doctor or nurse that you wish to change your Advance Directive. Once a new one has been made, destroy the old one.

What choices should I make in my Advance Directives?
You choose what to include in your Advance Directives. Think about the circumstances in which you want life-prolonging medical treatments started, continued, or stopped. You may wish to discuss this with your family, close friends, health care providers or clergy.

Do Advance Directives have to be signed and witnessed?
Yes, you must sign and date a Living Will and a Power of Attorney for Health Care in order for them to be legally valid.

Your signature on a Living Will may be witnessed by either:

1. Two qualified adults (19 years or older)
• It cannot be your life insurance provider
• A relative
• Only one witness may be your doctor or an employee of your health care provider

OR

2.  A notary public

Your signature on a Power of Attorney for Health Care may be witnessed by either:

1. Two qualified adults (19 years or older), who cannot be:
• related to you
• any person entitled to your estate
• your doctor
• your Power of Attorney for Health Care or their alternates
• an employee of your life or health insurance provider (Only one witness may be an employee of your health care provider)

OR

2.  A notary public

If I have Advance Directives in one state, will they be followed in a different state?
Yes. Under Nebraska law Advance Directives that are properly prepared according to another state’s laws will be honored in Nebraska.

What do Advance Directives NOT include?
1. A Living Will is not the same as a Last Will and Testament.

2. A Power of Attorney for Health Care is not the same as Power of Attorney for financial issues.

3. A Living Will is not the same as a “Do Not Resuscitate” or a “No Code,” or no C.P.R. (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

What should I do with my Advance Directives if I choose to have them?
Give a copy of your Living Will or Power of Attorney for Health Care to a family member, your doctor, and your representative, if you have named one. Tell your doctor to make the Advance Directive part of your permanent record. Keep the original of your Advance Directive in a safe place where they can easily be found by others if needed. (Do not place in a safety deposit box as this is not easy to access.) If you are ever admitted to a hospital, bring your Advance Directives with you.