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Why Advanced Directives Are an Important Part of Estate Planning

Why Advanced Directives Are an Important Part of Estate Planning

Stamp and Will papers

Advanced directives outline a person’s wishes and designate a surrogate decision-maker to take care of medical and financial decisions if a person becomes incapacitated and cannot make these decisions on his or her own behalf. They also protect an individual’s wishes for end-of-life care and interventions.

What Is an Advanced Directive?

An advanced directive provides a person’s family and medical providers with his or her wishes in regard to medical treatment and interventions and financial decisions. It also names the individuals who will make medical decisions or take care of financial documents on behalf of someone who is not able to do so. Conditions that would prevent decision making include a coma or severe injury or illness that causes mental incapacitation. Estate planning lawyers and will attorneys often help individuals create these valuable documents.

Types of Advanced Directives

People who are working on an estate plan can add three types of advanced directives.

The first is a living will. This outlines the medical treatment the person wants if he or she is incapacitated. This can include do not resuscitate orders.

The second advanced directive is a durable power of attorney for health care. This names an individual who will take over medical decisions when the individual cannot. A will attorney can help an individual choose the right healthcare proxy.

Finally, a durable power of attorney for property names the individual who will make non-medical decisions, like bank transactions or applying for disability payments. This is the final piece of advanced directive estate planning.

How Do Advanced Directives Help?

Legally, patients have the right to make personal decisions about health care, including the decision to refuse medical treatment. However, many times after a serious accident or injury, an individual loses the ability to make decisions, leaving family members in charge of answering these difficult questions. Sometimes loved ones will not agree on what steps to take to prolong or protect life.

Advanced directives help families in the aftermath of a serious illness or accident. Instead of having to guess what a loved one would wish, these documents provide guidance. If the family has a disagreement about how much end-of-life or life-sustaining care someone should receive, the documentation can provide instruction and peace of mind. 

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