If you’ve been thinking about creating your estate plan in 2016, you should know that one of the most important pieces of your plan will be your medical directive. Medical directives, also called advance directives, living wills or health care directives, allow you to control what happens to you if you lose capacity or the ability to communicate your wishes. Medical directives must comply with state law and each state has slightly different laws. This is why it’s important to talk to an experienced estate planning attorney if you want to create medical directives.
Your Medical Representative
One important decision you have to make when creating a medical directive is who you want to serve as your health care representative. By creating an advance directive and/or durable power of attorney for health care, you choose who will make decisions for you if and when you lose capacity. Your representative can be any capable adult, but you need to be sure your plan complies with the laws of your state.
Your Living Will
If the idea of handing your decision-making responsibility to a health care representative does not sit well with you, don’t worry. In addition to naming your chosen representative, your medical directive allows you to specify in detail your medical wishes. This portion of the advance directive is commonly referred to as a living will, but can go by different terms depending on the state in which you live.
Regardless of the terminology used, a living will allows you to state the health care treatment you wish to accept or refuse if you lose capacity. When you have both a living will and a health care power of attorney, you have comprehensive protection when it comes to health care decisions if you become incapacitated.
Discussing Your Wishes With Your Family
While discussing medical directives and health care concerns with your attorney is important, it’s also important to discuss your concerns with your family and closest loved ones. Should you become incapacitated, your family will be emotionally stressed. What you don’t want to happen is for your family members not to know your wishes. If they discover your medical directives and find that many of your choices are surprising to them, this can cause additional, needless worry.
This is why it’s always a good idea to discuss your medical planning decisions prior to creating your directives. It’s also important to let your family know your final decisions so no one is left in the dark or surprised when it comes time to put your directives to use.