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Yes, You Do Need an Advance Directive. Here’s Why.

Do I really need an advance directive?

Most of us don’t like to think about the possibility of something harmful happening to us or a loved one. Because of this, we rarely think about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones if the worst were to happen. However, just as it is important to buy homeowner’s insurance to protect your home and auto insurance to protect your vehicle, every individual should have an advance directive to protect themselves if they were no longer able to make decisions for their healthcare, end of life, living arrangements, and various other personal matters.


What is an Advance Directive?

The basic definition of an advance directive is a legal document (or group of legal documents) drafted as part of an estate plan, in which a person puts in writing what their wishes are for their healthcare if they no longer have capacity to make these decisions for themselves. Advanced directives are often comprised of a living will and a medical power of attorney. Every Marylander who is above the age of 18 should have one.

While advance directives can be drafted without legal help, this is a legally binding document as soon as it is signed in front of the required witnesses. Therefore, it is essential that you seek the advice of a legal professional when creating an advance directive.


What Should be Included in an Advance Directive?

There are several key items you should be addressed in your advance directive:

  1. Life Support. The most important instructions to include are which life support treatments you want, or do not want. You can provide directions on if you want all life support treatments, no life support treatments, or you may choose individual support treatments such as blood transfusions or dialysis.
  2. Medical Power of Attorney. Another facet every healthcare directive should contain is who you choose to be your medical power of attorney. This person will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to. This person should be someone who you are close to and can trust.
  3. DNR Order. You should also decide if you want a do not resuscitate order (DNR), which states that if your heart stops or you are no longer breathing, you want every effort or no effort made to revive you. Depending on your personal preferences, you should also include whether you would like to become a registered organ donor.


Advance Directives in Maryland vs. Other States

It is important to note that advance directives are not congruent throughout the United States, and laws may vary from state to state. This can often be confusing because, for example, your Maryland advance directive may not work in another state. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you should complete advance care directives for all states where you spend a significant amount of time.


Other Important Notes on Advance Care Directives

  • Emergency medical technicians are legally obligated to do whatever is necessary to stabilize a person and transfer them to a hospital. Therefore, they simply cannot honor your advance care directive. Your directive will be implemented when a medical professional evaluates your current state and the underlying conditions.
  • Advance care directives have no expiration timeline – the original will remain in effect unless you make changes to it. If you create a new directive in the same state, the previous one will be invalidated. However, it is important to notify the agent named in both the old and new document.
  • If your wishes do change, it is important to keep your advance care directive up to date. If you choose to make changes, it is recommended that you create an entirely new document.


Advanced care directives are extremely important because they give you a voice when you may not be able to speak on your behalf. If you have questions about anything you’ve read or would like to meet with a legal professional to discuss how you could benefit from an advanced care directive, please do not hesitate to contact Andre O. McDonald, a knowledgeable Howard County estate planning and elder law attorney at (443) 741-1088.



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For help with estate planning, special needs planning or elder law throughout Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore County; and Baltimore City, contact McDonald Law Firm, LLC.

McDonald Law Firm, LLC

Columbia Office

10500 Little Patuxent Pkwy, #420
Columbia, MD 21044-3563

Bethesda Office:

(By Appointment Only)

7315 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 800 West
Bethesda, MD 20814

Washington, DC Office:

2101 L Street, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037

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