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Living Will vs. Advance Directive

An advance care directive is a set of instructions made in advance to state how you would like to be cared for if you should become incapacitated in the future – or when you pass away. There are several different types of advance directives in Colorado:

  • Living will
  • Medical durable power of attorney
  • Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains

Living Will

A living will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to receive medical care in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes. For example, you may have very specific wishes surrounding emergency care or end-of-life care such as:

  • Mechanical ventilation to breathe
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Dialysis
  • Tube feeding
  • Organ or tissue donor
  • Donate your body for scientific research
  • Spending last days at home

You may state that you want only certain types of medical care administered and others not carried out at all. Or you may state that you want all forms of medical care provided but for only a specified amount of time. You have the ability to make these decisions in advance so your family is not tasked with making these very difficult types of choices.

Medical Durable Power of Attorney

An agent under medical durable power of attorney is a person that you appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot do so on your own. If you have created a living will, that person will be responsible for carrying out the wishes you state in your living will. If you do not have a living will, that person will make medical decisions for you. It is important to choose an agent under medical durable power of attorney that will be able to make very difficult decisions, including end-of-life care, if that should become a reality. You will want to choose someone who will act in your best interest, not for their own personal gain.

Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains

A Declaration of Disposition of Last Remains allows you state how you would like your body to be disposed of at your death.  This can include burial, cremation, interment, etc.  It also allows you to state what type of ceremonial arrangements you desire such as a funeral, memorial, celebration of life, etc.  You can also state if you would like to donate your organs to a person in need after you pass away.  Your desire to be an organ donor or not is specified in your living will and your declaration of disposition of last remains.

Review Your Advance Directives Often

Your physician and family should be informed of your advance directive wishes. The more they know, the better prepared they will be to respect your wishes in the event of an accident or serious medical situation. It is also advisable to review your decisions often to so you can make changes, if necessary, to reflect any new ideas or values you have or to update the people you have named to handle your medical decisions. Advance directives do not expire! If you keep your legal documents updated, your family will have much less stress to deal with in emergency situations.

At The Brown Law Firm, LLC, we are in tune with the Colorado laws surrounding advance directives. If you would like help creating a living will in Denver or filling out other advance directive documents, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.