Your Healthcare Decision: Advanced Directives in Estate Planning

Most people avoid making end-of-life plans for reasons ranging from not knowing where to start to not wanting to face their mortality. However, preparing for the future and what it might bring places you and your family in a far better position should the unexpected occur. One option for protecting your legacy and family is using Advanced Directives.

Advanced Directives play a significant role in determining what happens if you become incapacitated and incapable of making your own healthcare decisions. Advanced Directives help ensure your healthcare decisions are respected by eliminating confusion and reducing the risk of disputes over what’s best for you.

Continue reading to discover what are Advanced Directives, why you should consider designating the power of attorney for health care decisions to someone you trust, and how to establish Advanced Directives.

What are Advanced Directives?

Advanced Directives, also called Advanced Healthcare Directives or Advanced Medical Directives, are legal documents allowing you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care beforehand. They are a roadmap for your healthcare providers and loved ones to follow if you cannot communicate or make decisions due to illness or incapacitation.

Advanced Directives come in two primary forms:

  • Living wills. These are written legal documents that clearly outline what medical treatments you do or do not want used to keep you alive. A Living Will can specify your preferences regarding resuscitation, ventilation, artificial feeding, and other life-prolonging treatments. It can also detail your desires regarding pain management, organ donation, and other healthcare decisions that may arise at the end of life.
  • Durable power of attorney for healthcare. Rather than outline your medical wishes in advance, you can appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf by granting power of attorney. This person could be a family member, a close friend, or anyone you trust to respect and fulfill your healthcare wishes. Whoever you grant the power of attorney would have the authority to decide everything from approving medical procedures to removing you from life support.

Whether outlining your wishes or placing medical decisions in the hands of someone you trust, both forms of Advanced Directives provide a comprehensive plan for your future healthcare needs. They allow you to maintain some measure of control over your healthcare decisions, even when you cannot express them yourself.

The Importance of Advanced Directives

While the role Advanced Directives play in healthcare decisions is essential, their value is often overlooked by those who don’t understand the risks of not having a plan in place. Advanced Directives offer:

  • Autonomy and respect for personal choices. Advanced Directives ensure that your healthcare decisions are respected and implemented, even when you cannot communicate or make these decisions on your own. They reflect your values, priorities, and preferences about healthcare and end-of-life care, preserving your autonomy over personal choices.
  • A way to ease family burdens. In times of crisis, loved ones can find it challenging to make critical healthcare decisions on your behalf, especially when uncertain about your wishes. Advanced Directives provide clear guidance, reducing potential stress, guilt, and conflicts among family members who only want what’s best for you.
  • A guide for healthcare providers. Physicians and other healthcare providers must respect a patient’s rights and choices. Without the ability to communicate with the patient, Advanced Directives become an essential guide, ensuring the medical team follows your treatment preferences.
  • The prevention of unwanted treatments. Without Advanced Directives, there might be a risk of undergoing medical treatments you would not want, such as life-prolonging procedures that might not align with your values or quality-of-life standards.

Without Advanced Directives in place, decisions about your healthcare might be left to distraught family members, court-appointed strangers, or medical professionals who may not know your personal beliefs or preferences. These decisions may not reflect what you would have chosen, and those that care for you might have to make these difficult decisions with little time for consideration and under a lot of stress. Having end-of-life directives in place is an act of kindness for your loved ones and yourself.

How to Create an Advanced Directive for Health Care

Creating an end-of-life plan can feel uncomfortably morbid, and many people don’t even know where to start. Fortunately, you can simplify understanding what are Advanced Directives and how to create them by following this process:

  • Consider your healthcare preferences. The first step is to consider what types of treatments or life-sustaining measures you would want or not want implemented to extend your life. Do you want your life extended for as long as possible, or are you comfortable letting go rather than being left incapacitated?
  • Talk with your loved ones. Discuss your thoughts and preferences with your family and friends. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but they ensure everyone understands your wishes.
  • Consult with healthcare professionals. Speak with your doctors or other healthcare providers about what different treatments and end-of-life care may involve. They can provide medical insights that might help shape your decisions.
  • Create a Living Will. Once you’ve considered your options, you need to put your wishes in writing. Our team at MHPS can help draft your Living Will by clearly outlining your healthcare preferences.
  • Appoint someone to make power of attorney medical decisions on your behalf. Select someone you trust to make medical decisions when you cannot. Be sure they understand and are willing to respect and enforce your wishes.
  • Finish the legal process. Our team at MHPS will walk you through signing all necessary documents to meet all state requirements.
  • Distribute copies to family and friends. Provide copies of your living will and power of attorney to your healthcare proxy, doctors, and family members. Some people also keep a copy in their car or post one on their fridge so it’s easily accessible in case of emergency.

Keep in mind that you can modify Advanced Directives. As your beliefs or health situation change, our team can help you update these documents to reflect your current wishes. We recommend reviewing your directives periodically or whenever a significant health event occurs.

Advanced Directives vs. Will and Trusts

Advanced Directives, wills, and trusts all play an essential role in estate planning, but each serves a different purpose.

While Advanced Directives express your healthcare preferences, a will provides instructions for asset distribution after your death. Trusts, however, allow a third party to manage your assets, potentially during your lifetime and beyond.

Although different, all three play a part in developing a comprehensive estate plan. Together, they ensure that your personal, financial, and healthcare wishes are honored at all stages of life.

MHPS is Here to Help to Make the End More Manageable

Advanced Directives are essential in helping you maintain control over your future healthcare decisions, providing comfort and clarity to you and your loved ones in times of crisis. They respect your autonomy and personal healthcare choices and prevent potential family conflicts and medical procedures that go against your wishes.

It’s never too early to start planning, and our team at MHPS is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a family estate lawyer to equip yourself with Advanced Directives and move into the future with confidence and peace of mind.

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You don’t have to face a legal case alone. Get the support and guidance you need to make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of the law. Reach out today, and let’s take the first step together.