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Understanding Advance Directives In Washington: Frequently Asked Questions

Preparing for the future is a responsibility every adult should address. Doing so can provide peace of mind that, in the event something happens, your affairs are well in hand. An advance directive is one of the key tools for making your wishes known.

At Cogdill Nichols Rein Wartelle Andrews, we help people create customized estate plans to establish their legacy and prepare for the future. Our attorneys offer in-depth guidance on all aspects of an estate plan, including advance directives. Below we have provided answers to common questions we hear about these important documents.

What is an advance directive?

In Washington, an advance directive (sometimes called a “living will” or “health care directive”) allows you to set out your wishes in the event that you become incapacitated due to a life-altering accident or illness. Generally speaking, there are four parts to an advance directive:

  • durable power of attorney allows you to designate a trusted representative to handle your financial affairs.
  • health care power of attorney (or health care proxy) allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
  • A HIPAA release to grant your health care proxy access to your medical information, which would otherwise be prohibited under federal privacy law (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)
  • health care directive spells out your wishes regarding resuscitation, life support, comfort care and end-of-life care.

Together, these components empower you to make key decisions now, while you still have the capacity to do so.

Who should consider getting an advance directive?

Every adult should have an advance directive. Even young adults who don’t own any assets can benefit from having one in place. Without it, if something happens, your loved ones won’t be able to access your bank accounts, make payments for you or manage your financial affairs without first going through costly and burdensome guardianship proceedings. What’s more, they may have to guess at what your wishes are regarding medical treatment.

When would an advance directive go into effect?

The legal documents that make up an advance directive would only into effect if you become legally incapacitated – that is, unable to communicate or make decisions. They do not grant people access to your finances or medical records prior to that point.

Voice Your Wishes With An Advance Directive

If you don’t yet have an advance directive, or you need to update one, our lawyers can help. We have decades of working with clients to craft the right estate planning tools for their situation, giving them peace of mind about their future. Call our office in Everett at 425-247-3984 or reach out online to get started.