If an individual becomes unresponsive, it may not be possible for doctors or others to know what type of care to provide. With an advance directive, however, Virginia residents can put those wishes into writing. Furthermore, the advance directive will name another party who will carry out those instructions. The terms of the document may become effective when a doctor declares a patient to be unable to make decisions on his or her own.

Alternatively, an advance directive may become effective if criteria set by the state under living will or similar laws are met. However, the document will not be valid unless it is signed by two witnesses. These witnesses must not include the person named by the document as an agent. In some cases, the document must be notarized before it becomes official.

Ideally, the creator of the advance directive will make several copies of the document. Copies should be provided to friends, family members and medical professionals the creator interacts with regularly. Usually, the advance directive is only valid in the state where it is filed. However, some states do honor directives that were made outside of their borders. It may be worth looking into whether care instructions will need to be changed in any way prior to moving to a new state.

The use of an advance medical directive can facilitate quality care in a timely manner. It may also make it easier to allow the creator to pass with dignity. By making medical decisions before an emergency occurs, the creator could prevent difficult situations. An attorney can help a client make sure an advance directive is thorough.