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Advance Directives: Deciding Your Medical Care Before a Serious Illness

Posted on in Estate Planning
advance-directives-deciding-your-medical-care-before-a-serious-illness

Who will make medical decisions for you if you become so ill that you cannot communicate your wishes? What if the person selected chooses treatment you would not want? Fortunately, there are documents - called "advance directives" - you can prepare before a serious illness to help in situations like these.

An "advance directive" is a document that tells how you want medical decisions made if you ever become physically or mentally unable to make them yourself. The two most commonly prepared advance directives are a "living will" and a "durable power of attorney for health care." Here is a brief explanation of each.

  • Living Will. A living will lets you specify the types of life-prolonging treatment you want - or do not want - in the event you were terminally ill. It is called a living will because it can take effect while you are alive.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This lets you appoint someone (such as your spouse or child) to make your medical decisions if you cannot make them yourself..

Which is Better?

In some states, laws may make it better to have one or the other. In other states, it may be possible to have both, or to combine them in one document that describes the treatment you want in different situations and names someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot.

If you prepare an advance directive, you can change or cancel it any time. To be valid, any change or cancellation must be made according to state law.

The worst time to try to find out a person's wishes is during a medical crisis. So it is best to prepare an advance directive as soon as possible. The advance directive will help make sure you get the medical treatment you want if you are unable to communicate your wishes. For more information about advance directives and help in preparing them, contact your lawyer.

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