A health care directive is an important part of any will. This purpose of this article is to both explain the nature of a health care directive, and the risks of failing to include one in your will.

Depending on the state you live in, health care directives may go by another name. They are also known as “health care declarations,” “directive to physicians,” and “medical directive.” Whatever the language, each name is encompassed by the legal term “living will.” All terminology under this umbrella expresses the same meaning – a legal document used to state one’s official wishes about life support and other medical treatments in the event one becomes incapable of communicating his or her health care wishes. It is important to understand that the words “in the event of” mean ONLY “in the event of.” In other words, as long as you are still capable of expressing your healthcare wishes, a health care directive is inactive. Only when you lose capacity to express your healthcare wishes does the directive activate. Events causing a permanent loss of capacity may include a coma or severe stroke. As with all estate planning, these directives do not take away your own rights–instead they preserve them, even when you are incapable of sharing your own preferences.

Understanding Washington State’s Health Directive Law

Washington’s law concerning health directives went into effect in 1992. Under RCW 70.122.030 Directive to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment, adult persons are afforded the right to legally execute instructions concerning the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in one of two contexts: 1) a terminal condition, or 2) a state of permanent unconsciousness. Importantly, the directive must be signed by the adult person in the presence of two witnesses.

Though it may be comfortable to contemplate end of life issues such as a health care directive, it is critical that you take time to do so now. Failure to draft a directive may result in loss of independence concerning medical health decisions, and also have serious long-term financial consequences on both yourself and your loved ones. To ensure that your health care wishes are honored, contact an experienced Washington wills attorney today.

Contact Dan Kellogg online or call (425)227-8700 today if you need help setting up your health care directive.