“Advanced Healthcare Directive” is a strange phrase, but what does it mean?
The short and simple answer is that it is a document that allows you to designate people to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself, and allows you to let people know what your healthcare wishes would be so your agents don’t have to guess.
The ability to name your healthcare agent is very important for couples who are not formally married, especially in a state like New Mexico which does not recognize common-law marriage. Without the legal protections that being formally married provides, your partner may be unable to make healthcare decisions for you, even if you would have wanted them to.
Like a Living Will and Power of Attorney for Healthcare (two separate documents used in some states to accomplish the same thing), an Advanced Healthcare Directive has two functions.
The first part of the form allows you to nominate an agent, and successor agents, to make healthcare decisions for you. You can choose to give your agents the authority to make healthcare decisions for you immediately, or you can choose for the power to make healthcare decisions effective only when you can’t make your own decisions. You should choose people who you trust to make decisions that are consistent with your wishes, and you should make sure that the people you choose will be able to make medical decisions for you during a difficult and stressful time.
The second part of the Advanced Healthcare Directive allows you to state your wishes with regard to your healthcare. You can make decisions such as whether you would want to be kept alive on life support when there is no hope of recovery, whether you would like to be given pain medications, and whether you would like to donate some or all of your organs. While the second half of New Mexico’s Advanced Healthcare Directive form is optional, you really should complete it after giving the decisions some thought. Making these decisions in advance is very beneficial for the people who will have to direct medical care on your behalf later on, because they won’t have to make difficult decisions for you without knowing what you would have wanted.
An Advanced Healthcare Directive is an important part of Estate Planning, but it something you should be thinking about even if you are not ready to make a formal Estate Plan.