Preparing Advance Directives
|HOW CAN I OBTAIN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE DOCUMENTS?
WEBSITES. Websites that offer advance directives are readily available in an Internet search. Some sites are run by non-profit organizations and offer forms free or at nominal cost. Some sites are proprietary and charge for all forms. Many of these sites are excellent, but it is important to take the time to read the disclosures on each Website.
GOVERNMENT SITES. One critical issue is that the forms are most effective when they conform to the laws of your state. That is one of the best protections from finding a loved one in a similar situation to the Schiavo family. Most state Attorney General Websites offer free downloadable forms. You do not have to worry about these meeting state requirements, since the AG is the chief law enforcement officer of the state. What if the AG does not offer them? The Website and all telephone books have a toll-free number for the Attorney General. Call or write to them and express your concern. The National Association of State Attorneys General has an end-of-life initiative. Visit this site to find out more information on official state government agencies.
HFA WEBSITE. The forms on advance directives presented in the HFA Website are specific to the State of Florida.
ATTORNEYS. You can obtain all forms necessary for care at the end of life from an attorney specializing in family practice and estates. If you have a complicated estate or family situation, you should contact your lawyer. However, many people do not need to spend the $250-$1,000 a lawyer will charge to fill out these forms.
STORES. Most office supply stores sell forms and computer programs in the $20-$35 range. Some office supply stores may sell the forms individually for about $5.00 each, or in packages of about $20-$30. The packages have extraneous forms included. The computer programs run from about $30 and up, and some contain excellent explanatory information. The advantage of a computer program is that for a subscription you can obtain current state forms. The disadvantage is the cost, and inconsistency.
WHAT FORMS DO I NEED? There are three forms that are critical to advance directives:
A fourth form is helpful. Although it is not strictly an advance directive, it is an important piece of the process. It is usually presented to you upon entry into a hospital for procedures:
REMINDER: When you have all these forms, be sure to distribute them appropriately and make sure your doctor enters them into your chart. Your completion of these forms should also be highlighted upon admission to a hospital. Read the complete section on HFA’s website.
When you have all these forms, be sure to distribute them appropriately and make sure your doctor enters them into your chart. Your completion of these forms should also be highlighted upon admission to a hospital.
Documents must be signed in the presence of two adult witnesses who must sign the documents. (A person who is unable to sign may have another sign for him or her in the person's presence and in the presence of the two witnesses.) The surrogate and alternate surrogate cannot act as witnesses. At les one witness must be someone other than a spouse or blood relative.
The original documents should be retained by the individual with copies given to the surrogate, alternate surrogate, family, doctor, clergy, and attorney and placed in the medical record if the individual is in the hospital, nursing home, rehabilitation center, or assisted living facility.
It is important to place the documents in a place that is easy to remember (with all the family's legal and personal documents) and where they can be quickly and easily retrieved, particularly in the case of a medical emergency.