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Legal Planning

Health Care Directives

Do I need a Health Care Directive if I have a "living will" already?

There has been some well-founded confusion over the years about the terminology used when discussing these documents. To try and clear up this confusion, in 1998 the Minnesota Legislature made amendments to the existing law in this area, establishing a new document called a “Health Care Directive” to replace Living Wills (which applied only when the Principal—the person making the document for their health care-- was in a terminal condition) and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care (created to cover non-terminal conditions when the Principal was unable to make decisions for themselves). All advance directives for health care that are executed on or after August 1, 1998 in Minnesota are now considered “Health Care Directives” regardless of the wording used in the document itself. The term “Health Care Directive” also applies to any advance directives called “Living Wills” or “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care” that were executed before that date.

The advantage of the 1998 legislation is that it enables just one document to cover all instances when a Principal is unable to make their own medical decisions, regardless of whether their condition is terminal or not. If you have a validly executed document from before August 1, 1998, it is still valid and enforceable, but you may want to take advantage of the convenience and wide scope of coverage that the “new” Health Care Directive offers and execute a new one. Additionally, it is a good idea to examine documents which are that old to ensure that they accurately reflect your current wishes as perspectives and feelings can change over time.

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