As people journey through life, unforeseen circumstances may arise that could impact their ability to make decisions about healthcare. It is a reality they often prefer not to dwell on, but it is important to prepare for it.
One helpful estate planning tool for such situations is an advance directive.
Understanding advance directives
Medical treatment is a topic on many Americans’ minds, with there being 267 visits to a physician per every 100 citizens in 2018. An advance directive is a legal document that outlines an individual’s preferences regarding medical care, especially when they are unable to communicate or make decisions. This helps guide healthcare professionals and loved ones in providing care that aligns with the individual’s values and wishes.
Learning about all the parts
Typically, an advance directive has two parts. These are a living will and a healthcare power of attorney.
A living will specifies the medical treatments a person wishes to receive or avoid under certain conditions. It addresses scenarios such as life support, organ donation and other decisions. On the other hand, a healthcare power of attorney designates a trusted person, often a family member or friend, to make medical decisions on the individual’s behalf.
Helping make choices
An advance directive grants individuals control over their healthcare decisions. This includes times when they are unable to express themselves, such as while in a coma.
In times of medical crisis, families and healthcare providers can refer to these directives to ensure that others honor the individual’s wishes. This not only relieves the burden on family members but also provides clarity to medical professionals who must make decisions regarding treatment.
Promoting dignity and autonomy
Advance directives empower individuals to maintain their dignity and autonomy in the face of unforeseen health challenges. By expressing their preferences in advance, individuals contribute to a smoother decision-making process for their loved ones. This also reduces the potential for disagreements or uncertainties during emotionally charged moments.
Having an advance directive in place is a responsible and caring act. Taking the time to plan for the future through advance directives is a considerate step toward preserving values during estate planning.