An advance directive is a legal document allowing you to leave instructions for your medical care in the event that your decision-making capacity becomes diminished. Since this can happen at any time in your life, for a number of reasons, it is a good idea to have one even as a young adult. However, if you made an advance directive some time ago, it may no longer reflect your wishes due to a change of circumstances or attitude.

An advanced directive is a revocable document, which means you can make changes to it whenever you choose. Moreover, it may be a good idea to review it from time to time and make any updates as needed.

When to change your advance directive

The Mayo Clinic suggests reviewing your advance directive routinely every 10 years or so. Over time, your values can change, and periodic reviews ensure that your living will still accurately reflects your wishes. It is also a good idea to review your advance directive following a major life change, such as a marriage or divorce. This is especially important if your directive includes a power of attorney granting someone else the responsibility to make health care decisions on your behalf. You might also want to revise your advance directive after diagnosis with a chronic or terminal disease.

How to change your advance directive

When you write the initial directive, you should give copies to your physician, members of your family and your health care proxy, if you have one. You should keep the originals in a place that is easily accessible yet secure and maintain records of everyone who has a copy. This becomes important if you decide to make changes to your advance directive because you will have to provide a new copy to everyone who received the initial version. Discuss your wishes periodically with your family as well.