Advance directives are legal documents that indicate what medical care a person wants if they are incapable of expressing their wishes. They are important documents to include in your estate plan, because they document your preferences in a legally binding manner should you become incapacitated. New Jersey elder law recognizes two types of advance directives.
One is a proxy directive. In this document, a person designates an individual, the health care representative, to make medical care decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so on your own. A proxy directive can take effect whether one is temporarily unable to make decisions or permanently unable to make decisions due to a medical condition. The person designated in the proxy directive must make decisions based upon what you have expressed you want, preferably in an instruction directive, or in absence of this what they believe would serve your best interests.
The second type of advance directive recognized in New Jersey is an instruction directive. In this document, a person dictates what types of life-sustaining treatment they want, if any, should they be unable to express their preferences. An instruction directive serves as a road map for loved ones and medical professionals to follow when they are facing a situation that is not included in your advance directive.
It can be beneficial to have both a proxy directive and an advance directive. The two documents dovetail one another and can cover all of one’s bases with regards to medical care, should one become incapacitated. It is important that careful thought is given to each document and that it is drafted in a manner that is explicit and comprehensive, so there is no confusion should the time come to enforce it. By ensuring these documents are legally sound, a person can rest assured that their wishes regarding medical care will be followed should they become unable to express their own preferences.