Determining how your assets will distribute after your death is an essential part of estate planning. However, planning for potential end-of-life situations can be just as important, for both yourself and your loved ones.
If you have not already done so, you may want to consider completing an Advance Directive for Health Care. In addition to naming a trusted agent to communicate on your behalf, this important document allows you to specify what types of medical treatments you do or do not want to receive should you become incapable of making health care decisions yourself.
Specifying treatment preferences
Whether due to advancing illness or a sudden tragic event, there may come a time when your health prevents you from making informed choices about what type of care you want to accept. The Advance Directive for Health Care allows you to give instructions about specific treatment preferences if your condition is terminal or you are in a permanently unconscious state. Examples of procedures that you can either accept or refuse include:
- Tube feeding and hydration
- Mechanical breathing assistance
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
Choosing a health care agent
The advance directive form also allows you to designate a health care agent and a backup agent. If you choose to designate an agent, he or she will have the authority to ensure that health care providers follow your preferences for treatment. When selecting a representative, make sure that both he/she and other family members understand what your specific preferences are.
If you do not complete an advance directive correctly, the document may not be legally binding. To ensure that caregivers and loved ones know and follow your wishes, make sure that both you and two witnesses sign and date the document and provide your physician and close family members with a copy.