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Frequently Asked Questions

How will an advance directive help me and my family?

  • It helps your friends, family, and medical team know about what your wishes are for your healthcare if you are unable to speak for yourself. This way, your treatment team, friends, and family will not have to guess what you want. For this reason, having your health care agent/ medical power of attorney familiar with your wishes has been shown to lessen the fear and anxiety they may feel throughout this process.

What happens if I don’t have an advance directive?

  • A healthcare surrogate will need to be assigned to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. This may not necessarily be someone who knows you or what is important to you.
  • Each state has their own laws for this situation. In most states, this is normally the order for next of kin: Spouse, adult child(ren), parent, sibling, and then possibly other relatives.

I am a young person in good health. Do I really need to create a formal advance directive?

  • Advance directives are for all adults over 18.
  • We never know when an accident or serious illness will leave us incapable of expressing our own healthcare decisions.

Can I still make my own healthcare decisions once I’ve created an Advance Directive?

  • Yes. Your Advance Directive becomes effective only when you’re not capable of expressing your own wishes.

Is a Medical Power of Attorney the same as a Power of Attorney?

  • No.
  • A medical power of attorney (MPOA) is someone you have appointed to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This should be someone who you are confident will know your wishes and be able to voice them on your behalf, even if it is not what they would want for you or for themselves.
  • A power of attorney (also sometimes called a financial power of attorney) is someone you have appointed to make financial and legal decisions and commitments on your behalf.
  • Note that a personal representative is also not the same as a medical power of attorney and cannot make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Does my medical power of attorney have to be the same person as my regular power of attorney?

  • No, but you can choose to have one person serve in both roles if you would like.

Is it recommended to name a backup medical power of attorney on my advance directive?

  • Yes.
  • In the event that the first person you name is either unwilling or unable to make decisions, the backup person can take their place.
  • If you cannot think of a good backup person to name, it is still important to complete an advance directive. Having one person is better than having none at all!

When I complete my form, what are my next steps?

  • Make sure the document is easily legible.
  • Keep your form in place it can easily be found; don’t keep it locked up.
  • Give a copy to the person you have named as your health care agent and your backup agent.
  • Give a copy to your primary care provider.
  • You can also mail a copy to P.O. Box 3317 Winchester, VA 22604 for inclusion in your medical record.

Can I make changes to my advance directive once it is completed?

  • Yes, but you will need to complete a new advance directive form to replace the old one.
  • Complete the new form and follow the same steps as above.
  • Tell those with old forms that they are now outdated, and make sure you give your new form to the people and places noted above.
  • Outdated forms should not be kept. Shred them if possible.