Legal Issues

What are the different types of advance directives? Advance directives help people achieve a sense of control over their health care in the event they become unable to make a decision for themselves. The most common directives are:


What is a Living will? A living will spell out a person’s wishes about medical care in case he or she is physically unable to state those wishes. It addresses specific medical situations such as the placement of a feeding tube or the use of mechanical ventilation if respiration fails. The living will spell out what the person wants to have happened in those situations. Many states only allow a living will to be utilised when a person is terminally ill, in a coma, or in a persistent vegetative state. Sometimes this document is referred to as an advance medical directive.

What is a Health care proxy? This directive allows a person to name a personal representative or agent who will make medical decisions on his/her behalf, should personal decision making become impaired. It is critical that this representative understand the values, beliefs, and desires of the person being represented, and that any decision he/she makes reflects the person’s wishes as outlined in their living will. Health care proxy is sometimes called a medical power of attorney.

• Do Not Resuscitate Order. This document instructs medical personnel not to use CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if the person’s heart stops beating. It is important to review these documents regularly and execute new documents when wishes have changed. Also, as long as the person is mentally able, these directives can be revoked at any time.

Is it important for me to have these types of legal documents as well? Everyone, even those in good health, should prepare these documents because we never know when we might become unable to express our wishes. It is also good to keep in mind that if one does not choose an agent to make medical decisions, then a court will do so.

Do we need wills? Everyone should have a will. You and your loved one should have a current will drawn up by a solicitor and be sure that you keep it up to date.

A will allows you to make your own choices. It also provides an opportunity for wishes to be stated with regard to the guardianship of minor children and the management of their assets until they are old enough to assume control.

If these plans are not made court systems can make this extremely expensive.

Consult A Solicitor

Many people have never hired a solicitor or thought they needed one. But a long-term illness or disability can change lives dramatically, and it is helpful to have expert advice to avoid possible devastating effects on you or your family.  Your needs will determine what kind of solicitor will be best. Perhaps a solicitor who practices general law will be able to do everything that’s required. But if the financial situation is more complicated, you may need a solicitor with experience in estate planning to help you sort through income, property, bank accounts, and other assets.

If you need help finding a solicitor, ask trusted friends and associates for recommendations. Other professionals like bankers, accountants, and insurance agents may also have suggestions. The Irish Law Society has a list of registered practitioners which may help you find a solicitor with expertise in the area you need. (Look in the Yellow Pages under “Solicitors Referral & Information”.)

Some Of The Services A Solicitor Can Help You With: 

• Wills: Everyone over age 18 should have a will. Most solicitors in general practice can draw up a simple will. If a will was written long ago, review and update it if necessary. Appoint an executor.
• Estate planning: If there are large assets or there are complicated business or legal considerations, consult an solicitor who specialises in estate planning and is familiar with the legislation concerning estates and taxes.
• Durable Power of Attorney: This legal document, signed by a competent person, gives another person the authority to handle some or all of the first person’s affairs. It continues to operate even if the person who signs it becomes incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: This legal document allows another person to make medical decisions for someone who has lost the ability to make their own decisions. It can include detailed specifics about what should be done in the way of treatment and life-sustaining supports. It allows a trusted friend or family member to direct the GP according to the patient’s wishes. The person who signs the durable power can change or revoke it at any time. Everyone over age 18 should have a durable power of attorney that includes health care.
Advance Directives: Sometimes called living wills, these allow the person to give instructions about medical treatments that he does or doesn’t want if he becomes terminally ill and is unable to express his wishes. Hospitals and nursing homes are required by law to inform a person about advance directives before he is admitted. However, he is not required to sign an advance directive in order to be admitted.
Guardian: The court appoints a guardian to control and manage another person’s affairs and/or property. Guardianship is expensive and time consuming and is rarely necessary if other procedures like a durable power of attorney are in place.