The term advance directives is a complicated way of referring to some legal documents which Colorado residents can use to help their family members make important medical decisions for them if they are no longer able to do so.

Advance directives are important especially for those in the Denver area with a serious illness, like cancer, or some other terminal condition. Likewise, those who are aging may also want to think long and hard about advance directives.

Still, people of any age should have these documents in place as part of their estate plan.  After all, an unexpected illness or injury can quickly leave a person unable to make critical and life-changing medical decisions.

Medical Durable Power of Attorney

Many Denver residents may already have a standard power of attorney in place. Ordinarily, these give another person, called an attorney-in-fact, the power to perform important financial transactions on another person’s behalf.

A Medical Durable Power of Attorney, or MDPA, is a separate document. By executing it, a person gives power to their health care agent to make medical decisions for that person if that person cannot make those decisions.

These decisions can even involve electing not to pursue life-saving treatment.

The health care agent is supposed to make decisions consistent with the wishes of the patient. In this respect, the directive itself can at the same time give the health care agent access to medical records so the agent can have all the information he or she needs to make a decision.

Sometimes, a Medical Durable Power of Attorney or a health care agent may get referred to by a different name, like a health care proxy.

Living Will

Unlike an MDPA, a living will, which is legally referred to as Declarations as to Medical Treatment, explains in detail what a person wants should they be unable to make their own decisions yet need special life support, such as a ventilator, a feeding tube or the like.

Health Care Agents, physicians and other providers are in theory supposed to follow the directions in a living will.

A Colorado resident may execute a living will as a separate document and may do so independently or along with the MDPA document.

Other considerations

 Although lesser known, Colorado recognizes other advance directives. These include directives expressing whether a person wants providers to perform CPR or other specific medical procedures.

It is true that there are many forms available online and through other parties.

However, as these directives sometimes can touch on life and death, it is important for people to understand both their rights and all the legal consequences of signing these documents.

It is equally important to have a frank conversation about who is going to carry out these directives and how they will fit in to a Lakewood resident’s overall estate plan.