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What are advance directives and how do they work?

When it comes to estate planning, you may not know much about advance directives. These are legal papers that let you detail what kind of medical care you want if you cannot communicate your wishes yourself.

Taking a closer look at what advance directives are and how they can help you is important.

Learning more

Advance directives come in various forms, each serving a distinct purpose in guiding healthcare decisions. A living will is a written document where you can say what kind of treatments you do or do not want, such as resuscitation and life support.

Another type is a durable power of attorney for healthcare. This is where you pick a trusted person, known as a healthcare proxy or agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

Knowing the benefits

Advance directives promote autonomy and dignity by allowing you to maintain control over your medical care. They also prevent disagreements among family members and doctors by giving clear instructions about what you want.

Creating the documents

Creating advance directives involves thoughtful consideration and discussion with loved ones. You need to be clear about what kind of treatments you would want to have, what your priorities are and what you want to happen if you are sick.

You should pick someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. Once drafted, you can regularly review and update these documents to reflect any changes in healthcare preferences or life circumstances.

Making them accessible

After creating advance directives, make sure that relevant parties, such as healthcare providers and family members, can find these documents when needed. Keep copies in easy-to-find places and give them to the places where you might get medical care.

Estate planning does not stop once you choose where your assets go after your death. Advance directives allow you peace of mind and empower you to protect your health-related wishes.