What is the Difference Between Advance Directive and Living Will in Missouri?

What is the Difference Between Advance Directive and Living Will in Missouri?

In Missouri, planning for future medical care and end-of-life decisions is crucial to ensure your wishes are honored. Two vital legal documents often discussed in this context are the Advance Directive and the Living Will.

Although these terms are frequently used interchangeably, they serve different functions and have distinct legal implications. Understanding the differences between them can help you make better-informed decisions about your healthcare.

Advance Directive in Missouri

An Advance Directive, also known as a Health Care Directive or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, is a comprehensive legal document that outlines your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. It can include instructions for various medical treatments and procedures, and typically appoints a healthcare agent (also called a surrogate or proxy) to make decisions on your behalf.

  • Healthcare Agent: You designate someone you trust to make healthcare decisions if you are unable to do so.
  • Medical Treatment Preferences: Specific instructions about the types of medical care you do or do not want in different scenarios.
  • Duration and Activation: Generally, the document comes into effect if you become incapacitated.

Why You Might Need an Advance Directive

It covers a wide range of medical decisions beyond end-of-life care. Empowers someone you trust to make critical healthcare decisions. Provides clear legal instructions that healthcare providers must follow.

In Missouri, an Advance Directive is governed by Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 404. This document remains in effect until you revoke it or create a new one.

Living Will in Missouri

A Living Will is a specific type of Advance Directive that provides instructions about your preferences for end-of-life care. It focuses primarily on what kind of medical treatment you would want—or not want—if you have a terminal illness and are unable to communicate your wishes.

  • End-of-Life Decisions: Specifies the types of life-sustaining treatments you do or do not want.
  • Artificial Nutrition and Hydration: Indicates whether you want to receive food and fluids intravenously if you can’t take them orally.
  • Implementation Criteria: Becomes effective only if you are diagnosed with a terminal condition and are unable to make decisions.

Why You Might Need a Living Will

Specifically addresses your wishes if you are terminally ill and unable to communicate them. Provides clear guidance to avoid disagreements among family members and medical staff. Like an Advance Directive, it is a legally binding document in Missouri.

Main Differences Between Advance Directive and Living Will

According to the St. Louis estate planning attorneys at TdD Law, there are significant differences between advance directives and living wills:

  • Scope: An Advance Directive is broader, covering various medical situations, while a Living Will is limited to end-of-life care.
  • Decision-Making Authority: An Advance Directive often appoints a healthcare agent to make decisions; a Living Will does not.
  • Activation: An Advance Directive can come into play in various scenarios of incapacitation, while a Living Will only takes effect if you have a terminal condition and can’t communicate your wishes.

It’s possible to have both an Advance Directive and a Living Will to cover all bases. The Advance Directive can designate a healthcare agent and cover a range of medical decisions, while the Living Will can specifically address your wishes for end-of-life care. This way, you provide comprehensive instructions that leave no room for ambiguity.

Understanding the distinctions between an Advance Directive and a Living Will is essential for making informed decisions about your healthcare in Missouri. Both documents serve to ensure that your medical and end-of-life wishes are respected, but they do so in different ways. Consulting with a legal professional can also provide added clarity and ensure that your documents are properly executed and legally binding.


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