I have a Power of Attorney. Why do I need an Advance Care Directive?

A Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive are two separate and distinct documents that deal with different situations and scenarios during your life. They are used for different purposes and may sometimes be used together or individually.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints a trusted person (or people) to make financial, and/or property decisions on your behalf.

It is a document that can be made by anyone over the age of 18 years, as long as they understand the nature and effect of the document they are completing. This means they must be of sound mind and not suffering from any mental illness, acquired brain injury, cognitive impairment or dementia.

Also, a Power of Attorney can run parallel to your own decision making. That is, it can operate while you are still able to (and do) make your own decisions but it can also allow others to make decisions for convenience; for example while you are overseas or in hospital for an extended period. It will also still continue to operate even if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

What can’t a Power of Attorney do?

A Power of Attorney does not allow the appointed person (your attorney) to make personal and lifestyle decisions on your behalf. The authority of the appointed person is limited to decisions about your property and financial affairs only. For any personal and lifestyle decisions to be made on your behalf you will need an Advance Care Directive.

What is an Advance Care Directive?

An Advance Care Directive is a legal document which sets out your wishes, preferences and instructions directly to your medical providers and those you chose to make decisions on your behalf (usually a family member or close friend) should you be unable to communicate those wishes in the future. It will only become operative in those circumstances. It can give you peace of mind that your wishes are known and will be respected, if others need to make decisions for you.

Your Advance Care Directive can include your choices about future health care, end of life, living arrangements and personal matters. It enables you to decide now, while you have capacity, who can make those decisions on your behalf should you become unable to in the future.

Who should have an Advance Care Directive?

To write an Advance Care Directive you must be over 18 years old and be able to understand what an Advance Care Directive is, what it will be used for and when it will be used.

Advance Care Directives are not just a document for the elderly. They are just as useful for younger people who may suffer a degenerative disease (for example, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease and other chronic illnesses) or have an unexpected accident.

They are also not just a tool for people to leave instructions in the lead up to death. Rather, they are directed at quality of life, including near the end so that undesired treatments are not considered and values, religious or cultural preferences are respected.

What can’t an Advance Care Directive do?

An Advance Care Directive cannot be used to make financial or legal decisions. It is therefore recommended that as well as an Advance Care Directive, you have a Power of Attorney to make those decisions about your future finances and legal matters.

Why should you have an Advance Care Directive?

An Advance Care Directive is your document that specifically sets out your wishes and what treatment you would like (or not like) to receive. You have outlined your wishes ahead of time to assist people in the decisions to be made. This eliminates your loved ones guessing what decisions you might have made if you had capacity, rather than making their own judgement on your behalf.

An Advance Care Directive can take away the difficult decisions loved ones are often left to face. No-one likes to talk about death and dying….so they don’t!

The Advance Care Directive allows all of your wishes to be clearly set out so that your trusted appointed person (also known as a Substitute Decision-Maker) knows exactly what your priorities are when you need decisions made on your behalf.

Want to know more about Advance Care Directives and Powers of Attorney. Get in touch with us for more information or assistance.

Today’s blog has been written by Probate Clerk, Nikki Harder and approved by Partner, Peter Myhill.

You can complete an Advance Care Directive online with acdAssist

acdAssist is a guided question and answer process, that you can complete at your own speed and in your own words. It is designed to identify your wishes and needs to those who you choose to make decisions for your care when you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. These are then included in an Advance Care Directive for you to sign.