Patients in New York and throughout the country have a right to decide for themselves if they will undergo surgery or take a medication. However, those who are unconscious or not of sound mind may not be capable to making decisions about their medical treatment. With an advance directive, an individual can make his or her wishes known in writing before an emergency situation occurs. An advance directive may also be known as a living will or medical power of attorney.

This type of estate plan document can be created by anyone who is 18 or older and is of sound mind. To be considered valid, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses or in the presence of a notary public. In addition to giving a person more control over their treatment options, an advance directive can provide clarity for family members.

If a patient doesn’t have an advance directive, the state may determine what is in that individual’s best interests. A judge may appoint a guardian to make decisions on that person’s behalf. Those who have created their advance directives are encouraged to make multiple copies of the document and hand them out to their doctors, lawyers and family members. Individuals should keep their original copies in secure locations where they can be easily accessed.

Those who have questions about advance directives or other care planning issues may want to talk to a legal professional. He or she may be able to review a living will or other documents that a person may have already created to determine if they are valid. Reviewing documents on a regular basis may also ensure that they still meet a person’s needs. Typically, living wills can be altered or revoked by their creators at any time.