What Happens When I Can No Longer Express My Wishes? An Overview of Advanced Healthcare Directives and a Financial Power of Attorney

The Chamberlain Law Firm

Estate planning is a critical aspect of securing your future and ensuring your wishes are honored in the unlikely case of illness or incapacity. Advanced healthcare directives and a financial power of attorney play vital roles in managing medical and financial decisions when you are unable to do so. In this article, we will provide an overview of advanced healthcare directives in New Jersey, along with a brief explanation of a financial power of attorney.

Types of Advanced Healthcare Directives

In New Jersey, there are two primary types of advanced healthcare directives to consider:

  1. Proxy Directive (Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare): Appointing a healthcare representative, also known as a healthcare proxy or agent, is an essential step in planning for your future medical care. This person will have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself. As such, it’s crucial to discuss your preferences and the extent of decision-making authority with your chosen representative.
  2. Instruction Directive (Living Will): A living will is a legal document that outlines your specific wishes regarding medical treatments in various situations. This may include preferences for life-sustaining treatment, pain management, organ donation, or other medical interventions. Your living will should provide clear guidance to your healthcare team, especially if your healthcare representative is unsure or unavailable.

The key difference between a proxy directive and an instruction directive is that a proxy directive allows you to appoint a healthcare representative to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so, while an instruction directive provides specific written instructions regarding your medical treatment preferences in various situations, guiding your healthcare team when you cannot communicate your wishes. Proxy directives and instruction directives serve complementary roles in safeguarding your healthcare preferences. Having both documents in place provides a more comprehensive and robust approach to protecting your wishes and ensuring your medical care aligns with your values when you are unable to communicate or make decisions.

Establishing a Legally Valid Advanced Healthcare Directive in New Jersey

To create a legally valid advance healthcare directive in New Jersey, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure you are at least 18 years old and mentally competent.
  2. Create a written document that includes your signature, or have someone else sign it at your direction if you are physically unable to do so.
  3. Obtain the signatures of two adult witnesses or notarization by a notary public.

Remember to provide copies of your advanced healthcare directive to your healthcare representative, primary care physician, and any other relevant healthcare providers. We also strongly urge you to discuss your wishes with your family members and loved ones.

Financial Power of Attorney in New Jersey

In addition to advanced healthcare directives, a financial power of attorney is another crucial component of estate planning. Similar to a proxy directive, this legal document allows you to designate an agent to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated or unable to handle them yourself. The scope of authority granted to your attorney-in-fact can be as broad or as limited as you wish, covering tasks such as bill payments, property management, and investments.


Advanced healthcare directives and a financial power of attorney are essential tools for ensuring that your medical and financial wishes are respected in the event of illness or incapacity. Regularly reviewing and updating these documents is vital to keeping them aligned with your preferences. For more specific information or legal advice on advanced healthcare directives and financial power of attorney, consult our experienced New Jersey estate planning attorneys at the Chamberlain Law Firm via our contact page or by calling us at (201) 273-9763.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. In the event you would like to speak with a lawyer about the specifics of your case, contact The Chamberlain Law Firm at (201) 273-9763 to schedule a consultation.

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