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The Advance Directive

Nobody wants to think about death. However, planning for the medical treatment you will receive at the end of your life is just as important as determining who will inherit your estate. As we’ve discussed, you can utilize a revocable living trust to have a successor trustee manage your property and assets in the event you become incapacitated. Yet, decisions regarding your end-of-life health care are dealt with in a separate document, called the Advance Directive.

The Oklahoma Advance Directive Act is found in Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes, beginning at Section 3101. Oklahoma’s Advance Directive form contains three parts. In part one, you indicate whether you want to receive life-sustaining treatment if you have the following: a terminal condition, defined as an incurable and irreversible condition that in the opinion of an attending physician and another physician will result in death within six months; you are persistently unconscious; or you have an end-stage condition, being a condition caused by injury, disease or illness which results in incompetence and complete physical dependency and for which treatment would be medically ineffective. For each of these situations, you can choose to receive all life-sustaining treatment available, no life-sustaining treatment at all or only to be administered artificial nutrition and hydration. Part two of Oklahoma’s Advance Directive form is the appointment of a health care proxy. This is the individual who will make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make these decisions for yourself. Your health care proxy is responsible for ensuring that doctors carry out your wishes concerning end-of-life treatment. Finally, part three of the Oklahoma Advance Directive form gives you the opportunity to donate your organs and other body parts to transplantation and medical research after you pass away.

You can complete an Advance Directive on your own. That said, in most cases it’s advisable to obtain legal advice before you fill out the form. An estate planning and elder law attorney can help you fully understand the different aspects of the Advance Directive, provide counsel about who you should appoint as your health care proxy and make sure your Advance Directive is given to the appropriate individuals and institutions. If you have not already done so, think about completing an Advance Directive. It can save your family and loved ones much anguish in trying to figure out what you would have wanted and give you peace of mind in knowing that the end of your life will be handled with the dignity and respect you deserve.