Ask A Geriatrician- by Dr. Susan Nelson

Ask A Geriatrician- By Dr. Susan Nelson

Do I need a lawyer to create an advance directive (living will, health care power of attorney, etc)?  

You do not need an attorney to complete either an advance directive (living will) or Health Care Power of Attorney. The advance directive also known as a living will is a legal document that states what kinds of treatment should be given to you when you can no longer make decisions or speak for yourself. It only goes into effect if you are terminally ill and have lost decision-making capacity, and it is usually completed in advance of any known illness. You complete it yourself, and unless there are other known facts, it must be honored. To become valid, it must include the signatures of two witnesses not related to you by blood or marriage. The health care power of attorney document authorizes someone else to make decisions about your health care when you are no longer able to make those decisions or speak for yourself. In Louisiana, there is a very specific order of who can make these decisions for you if you have no written instructions available. It must be witnessed by two people to become valid. Neither document requires that they be notarized.