Your Health Care Directive

A good estate plan has many vital components. One very important one that approximately 65% of Americans are missing is the health care directive. This vital component appoints someone on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

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A health care directive is also known as a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or medical directive. People often shy away from them because of their discomfort with their own mortality. This is too important to avoid. This legal document will specify your wishes for caregivers in the event of illness or incapacitation. It can also give direction on how you want your body handled after death.

An agent must be chosen when writing a health care directive. Your agent will make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to that are consistent with your wishes. Choose an agent whose values are in line with yours. Your agent could make life or death decisions such as whether to continue treatment or just keep you comfortable or other major medical decisions. Typically, married people choose their spouse to be their agent. Other options include adult children, other close family members or friends.

After you have chosen someone to be your agent it is important to review your directive with them. The better they understand your wishes and thoughts the better they will be able to make decisions that you would want them to make.

The agent’s responsibilities extend after your death. The agent is responsible to carry out any organ donation wishes you have. Those wishes are commonly indicated on your driver’s license and can also be in your health care directive. Any specific wishes regarding organ donation can be expressed in your directive.

An agent helps to make sure your funeral wishes are fulfilled. There are many decisions to be made regarding preparation and disposal of the body and funeral services. Any specific directions you have can be part of your healthcare directive.

Your health care directive is an essential part of your estate plan. It keeps you part of the decision-making process for medical decisions to funeral arrangements. Putting it in place will likely make you feel good.

If you don’t already have an estate plan, including a health directive, work with your attorney to create one. If you have one, make sure it is up to date. Attorneys recommend that estate plans be reviewed every three years. They should also be updated when there are major changes in your life such as births, deaths, and marital status. Contact your attorney to make sure your estate plan is current, includes a health care directive, and addresses your needs.