We’re often told to expect the unexpected. However, it can be hard to think about, let alone plan for, what will happen if we become incapacitated due to illness or injury. Today, we cover an essential estate planning document: the advanced health care directive.
What does an advanced health care directive do?
First things first: What exactly is an advanced health care directive? In other states, people often refer to these documents as “living wills” or “advanced care directives.” All operate the same way – they let medical professionals know what you wish to happen should you become unable to communicate and need life support or substantial surgery.
How it works
Your advanced health care directive can work one of two ways or a combination of the two. One method is leaving detailed written instructions on the medical care you wish to have. Forms are available online to help people get started, but we advise talking to an attorney as well.
Alternatively, you can also appoint someone to make health care decisions for you. That person is known as your “health care agent,” and your directive gives them the legal authority and rights to make decisions, such as:
- Access to your medical records
- The ability to choose your medical provider or facility
- The right to refuse or consent to treatment
- Permitting or restricting organ donation
- Withdrawing from or withholding life support
The health care agent should be someone close to you, whom you trust to carry out your wishes. In many cases, they are a family member, partner, or close friend.
As we see in many areas of estate law, the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out is to have a plan. It is never too early to create an advanced health care directive.