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What Does an Advance Directive Do?

It’s the worst-case scenario: you become ill or are injured and can’t convey your wishes for end-of-life care. Having an advance directive as part of your estate plan is good. However, it’s just the start.

Once you have an advance directive, which explains your wishes for end-of-life care, you’ve taken step one. Next, you need to have a conversation with your family about it. You want to make sure that they understand what your wishes are, and you need to let them know where the document is located. If your wishes change, you need to update the document.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Advance Directive: Ensure End-of-Life Wishes Honored,” notes that many people say, “My family knows what I want, so I’m covered.” But too frequently, that’s not the case.

If you haven’t drafted an advance directive or named a health care proxy, or your loved ones can’t locate it in an emergency, chances are good that your wishes won’t be honored.
If you don’t have an advance directive, create one now and share it.

An advance directive, which usually refers to a living will and a health care power of attorney, should state your preferences for medical treatment in an accident or at the end of your life. It should also designate an agent to make decisions on your behalf, if you’re incapacitated.

Make copies and give them to family members and your medical team. Keep your copies where they can be easily located.

Be certain that your loved ones are clear about your wishes and are willing to carry them out. Have a family conversation that includes as many people as possible, including adult grandchildren. Let them know your preferences, such as: Do you want to be kept alive on a ventilator? Are you willing to live in a nursing home?

Next, ask a trusted relative or friend to be your health care agent. Choose a person who can handle the responsibility and discuss it in depth.

Just as you need to update your estate plan when major life changes occur, you should also review your advance directive with an experienced estate planning attorney. Those changes include the death of a spouse or a child, divorce, a serious illness, a marriage or a new baby.

Reference: Kiplinger (February 5, 2018) “Advance Directive: Ensure End-of-Life Wishes Honored”

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