Rod Cunich’s Inbox: How do you complete a health-care directive?

Jim wants to know about the paperwork required to complete for his health-care directive.

Completing a health-care directive

Jim doesn’t want to be hooked up to machines should he ever have an accident or fall terminally ill. So, he’s asked YourLifeChoices’ estate planning expert, Rod Cunich, about the paperwork required to complete for his health care directive.

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Q. Jim
I don't want to be kept alive if something bad was to happen to me and I end up in hospital on a life-support machine. I am confused about what document I should complete to avoid this predicament. What should I do?

A. You require a ‘health-care directive’ – sometimes called a ‘living will’ or ‘advance health-care directive’.  They take many forms. In some states and territories (for example, Queensland, the ACT and Victoria) health-care directives are incorporated in the standard statutory form of Enduring Power of Attorney or Appointment of Enduring Guardian. In other states (for example, NSW) there is no such statutory form so you need to create your own document.

The content of an advance health-care directive can vary greatly. It can be as simple as a single paragraph that states your wish not to be treated medically in certain circumstances through to an extensive shopping list of medical conditions with instructions about what treatment you prefer in each situation. 

Although not necessary to be effective, its best to execute formal advance health care directive documentation and have it witnessed in accordance with the laws in your state or territory. In order to avoid making mistakes, ask your solicitor to help you prepare this  relatively cheap document.

If, however, you prefer to avoid legal fees then undertake an internet search to find out what documentation is appropriate for your state or territory. Search the term ‘Advance Health-Care Directive’ and include the name of your state or territory. All jurisdictions have the appropriate forms posted on the internet by local trustee companies and government departments, and they can be readily downloaded. If you can’t locate a suitable site, contact me and I’ll assist you.

Caution: Ensure, however, that you complete the documents correctly and, critically, that you follow instructions about having your signature witnessed by appropriate witnesses. Some states that have a formal statutory document require a solicitor or other specified person to witness your signature.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided by Rod Cunich and should be considered general in nature. Seek legal advice before acting on this information.

Rod Cunich is a lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, email it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au

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