If you live in New York and have an advance directive, you can always choose to modify your directive as long as you remain capable. Advance directives are not set in stone, and taking the time to regularly review them or modify them is something that is in your best interests.
All of us experience changes in our lives, and sometimes the decisions we’ve made in the past are not the same choices we would make today. If, after reviewing your directives, you decide that a change is in order, you should contact your estate planning attorney to make the appropriate arrangements. Until then, here’s what you need to know about making updates to your advance directives.
When You Need to Review Advance Directives
In many situations you won’t need to make any changes to the directives you have created. When people decide to make changes, they typically do so because of some common reasons. The American Bar Association has identified the five most common reasons as the “Five D’s.”
- Death. The death of a close family member, friend, or even a celebrity can cause you to reevaluate the choices you have made in your advance directives. Whether the person died because of a medical complication you had not considered or for entirely unrelated reasons, reviewing your own documentation after a death can be a good idea.
- Decade. It’s often convenient to consider different health issues whenever you reach a new decade of your life. For example, people in their 20s don’t have to consider the same medical issues that most people in their 50s or 60s will.
- Divorce. Many medical directives name a person’s spouse as his or her medical representative or healthcare agent. If you get a divorce, or get remarried, modifying your advance directives is probably prudent.
- Decline. If you have experienced a significant decline in health, updating your medical directive is also probably a good idea. This is especially true if your decline has begun affecting your ability to care for yourself or live as an independent individual.
- Diagnoses. It’s also good idea to review any medical directives if you have recently received a medical diagnosis for a significant health condition. Educating yourself about the condition and learning what common prognoses and treatments are is important for you, and can prompt you to decide to make key changes.
Modifying Advance Directives
Just as when you first created your advance directive, modifying them requires you to ensure the document meets all relevant state requirements. Your estate planning attorney will tell you what you need to do to make your changes. You should plan on meeting with your lawyer to discuss your options and create the appropriate documentation. You will also need to ensure that you keep your advance directive in a safe place and give copies to people who need them, such as close family members, your health care agent, and your personal physician.