Often when you see a lawyer about drawing up a Will, you will also be asked whether you would like to have an Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive drawn up at the same time.

When you are drawing up a Will, what you are doing is thinking about future arrangements for when you pass away. It also a good time to think about what arrangements you wish to have in place in the event that you are still alive but are no longer able to care for yourself or make your own decisions.

In South Australia there are two main documents that allow you to do this: Enduring Powers of Attorney (for your finances and legal matters) and Advance Care Directives (for your own care and medical decisions).

Advance Care Directives replaced the two documents previously known as Enduring Powers of Guardianship and Medical Powers of Attorney. (If you already have these documents they will continue to remain effective unless you replace them with an Advance Care Directive.)

An Advance Care Directive allows the people you nominate called “substitute decision-makers” to make medical decisions and future care arrangements on your behalf. Your substitute decision-makers can only make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

The document can also be used to specify how you want particular decisions made. Examples of such decisions can include whether to turn off your life support, or decisions about being placed into a nursing home should the need ever arise. You have a few different options available to you.

First, you can write down your values and wishes for your future arrangements. These values and wishes are not binding but do provide your substitute decision-makers or care providers with a guide. The following are a few simple examples of potential values and wishes that can be included:

  • If I have a serious car accident or illness and I am not likely to recover, I would prefer comfort care to maintain my dignity.
  • Being independent is important to me. I prefer to be supported and cared for at home as long as possible provided that I can be cared for easily at home.
  • I would like to donate my organs if possible.

Secondly, you can also have binding refusals of health care. If you have a binding refusal, it will need to be followed by your substitute decision-maker, regardless of how they might feel about it (subject to some exceptions).

Many people wish to include a binding refusal of treatment with respect to not being kept alive by life support in certain circumstances.

Finally, you might wish to leave both the values and wishes and the binding refusals of health care blank and allow your substitute decision-makers to make all decisions on your behalf as they see fit. However, if you do this you should discuss with your substitute decision-maker what your values and wishes are.

You can also choose not to have a substitute decision-maker, filling out only those sections about your wishes and values, or about binding refusals of care.

As with many other legal documents, to create an Advance Care Directive you must be over 18 years of age and have mental capacity. That is, you must be of sound mind and be capable of understanding the general nature of what will be achieved by the making of an Advance Care Directive.

ACDs are particularly important where there might be a dispute or some uncertainty about who should look after you. Often the obvious answer will be a spouse, but what if something happens to both of you? An ACD can be used to protect you in that situation.

If you do not wish to instruct a lawyer to draw up an Advance Care Directive on your behalf, you can download the form here and complete it yourself. However, I would strongly urge you to read through the instructions carefully as errors in the execution of the form can cause invalidity of the form.

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