Mental Health Advance Directives in Washington

Per E. Oscarsson, Edmonds Lawyer

Many people have heard of a health care directive, sometimes referred to as a living will.  It expresses an individual’s wishes for certain treatments if the person is in a terminal or permanent unconscious condition.  A different Washington law provides for the use of a mental health advance directive, which allows an individual to express his or her instructions or preferences for their behavioral health care at a time when a behavioral health disorder (defined as a mental disorder, a substance use disorder, or a “co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder”) has not deprived the individual of the power to express such instructions or preferences.  Unlike a health care directive, a mental health advance directive is not tied to a terminal or permanent unconscious condition of the person making the directive.

A mental health advance directive can be very broad in scope.  It can include any provision relating to behavioral health treatment or the care of the principal (the person making the directive) or the principal’s personal affairs, including, but not limited to, the principal’s preferences and instructions for behavioral health treatment; consent to, or refusal to consent to, specific types of behavioral health treatment; consent to admission to and retention in a facility for behavioral health treatment for up to 14 days; descriptions of situations that may cause the principal to experience a behavioral health crisis; and suggest alternative responses that may add to or be in place of direct behavioral health treatment.  It can also provide for the appointment of an agent (under Washington’s power of attorney statute) to make behavioral health treatment decisions for the principal and the principal’s nomination of a guardian or limited guardian under the power of attorney statute for consideration by the court if guardianship proceedings are commenced.  A mental health advance directive must state whether the principal wishes to be able to revoke the directive during any period of their incapacity or wishes to be unable to revoke it during any period of their incapacity.

If you need assistance with your estate planning matters, contact one of the attorneys in Beresford Booth’s Estate Planning and Probate Group.

To learn more about Mental Health Advance Directives in Washington, please contact Beresford Booth at or by phone at (425) 776-4100.

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