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Probate and Planning

Health Care Directive

What Is a Health Care Directive?

A health care directive is a written document that informs others of your health care wishes. It allows you to name a person (or “agent”) to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Under Minnesota law, anyone 18 or older can make a health care directive.

Why Might I Need a Health Care Directive?

A health care directive is useful if you become unable to adequately communicate your health care wishes. The directive guides your physician, family and friends regarding your care at a time when you are not able to provide that information. While you do not have to create a health care directive (you will still receive medical care without one), a directive will help you get exactly the care you would like, particularly near the end of your life when your interests may not be the same as those who survive you.

How Do I Prepare a Health Care Directive?

There are forms that you can use to draft a health care directive. The “Sample Forms” section includes a sample Health Care Directive Form for your use. You can also create your own directive or have an attorney prepare one for you, but your directive must:

Before preparing your directive, you may wish to speak with your physician or other health care provider.

What Should I Include in My Health Care Directive?

Your health care directive may contain many health-related items, including:

You may be as specific or general as you wish in your health care directive.

What Are the Limits on My Health Care Directive?

Your health care directive is limited as follows:

Your health care provider must follow your health care directive or your agent’s instructions. If your provider cannot or will not follow your agent’s directions about life-sustaining treatment, your provider must promptly transfer you to a health care provider who has the capability or is willing to follow your directives.

How Do I Change My Health Care Directive?

Your health care directive lasts until you change or cancel it. If you wish to cancel it, you may do one of the following:

Bear in mind that Minnesota law allows you to consolidate your living will, durable power of attorney and health care directive into one form for all your health care instructions.

The Minnesota Board on Aging has also prepared a useful form for citizens. You may obtain that health care directive form by calling (800) 333-2433.

When Does My Health Care Directive Take Effect?

Your health care directive becomes effective when it meets all the requirements described above and your health care provider determines that you can no longer make health care decisions for yourself.

You may also provide for in your health care directive certain conditions that must exist for it to become effective.