Advance Health Care Directives in Utah

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

Real People. Real Solutions.

Advance Health Care Directives in Utah

Last Updated

Utah law provides a means of combining two different but related estate planning tools – a medical power of attorney and a living will – into a single, relatively simple document – an advance health care directive. This a common document that many people have seen or even completed when they have been in the hospital for surgery or other care. But even those who have completed an advance health care directive may not fully understand the important role that this document can play in a complete estate plan. Contact us today to see how one of our attorneys can help you establish a complete estate plan that will help protect you and those you love.

Medical Power of Attorney

In general terms, a power of attorney is a document that authorizes one person (the agent) to act on behalf of another person (the principal). More specifically, a medical power of attorney allows you to designate and authorize another individual to act as your agent, to communicate with health care providers, access health records, and even make decisions on your behalf. Depending on the terms set forth in the medical power of attorney, some of these authorities may only be exercised by your agent in the event that you become incapacitated. But you can also designate other actions that the agent can take on your behalf even while you remain competent.

Living Will

Because of its name, a “living will” is sometimes confused with a “last will” or “living trust.” But a living will performs a very different function, allowing you to express preferences regarding end-of-life decisions and care. Utah law establishes certain defaults for determining who may make these decisions when a person has become incapacitated or is no longer able to communicate their wishes to those who are providing care. But by establishing a living will, you can override those defaults and designate the individual who is authorized to make those end-of-life care decisions, and can also clarify your wishes in regard to specific matters ranging from organ donation to the provision of comfort care and the withdrawal of life-sustaining care.

Utah Advance Health Care Directive

A medical power of attorney and a living will can both play important roles in helping family members and loved ones during difficult times. Decisions relating to end-of-life care are almost always difficult, even when a loved one has clearly made his or her wishes known. By executing an advance health care directive, you can communicate your wishes relating to health care during a period of temporary incapacity or relating to end-of-life decisions. An advance health care directive also allows you to designate and authorize a specific person to carry out those wishes and to act on your behalf.

Making these decisions ahead of time and establishing the legal authorization necessary to carry out those decisions can help ensure that your wishes are respected. It can also relieve your loved ones of the burden of making these decisions during a time of crisis.

The Utah Legislature has, by statute, established certain standards and guidelines for the contents and execution of an advance health care directive. Many hospitals have a standardized form that they offer to patients who are interested in executing an advance health care directive. While it may sometimes be necessary to create a custom-drafted health care directive, the standardized forms generally provide enough flexibility to allow you to thoroughly express your wishes on relevant matters.