Name Someone to Act For You In Case of Emergency
This document gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make a wide range of medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to decide (understand) or communicate your wishes. It also gives your agent access to your medical information and authority to fully participate with your treating physicians in deciding the care you receive. Your agent’s job is to carry out your wishes, so this should be someone who knows you well and that you trust to follow through.
Be Prepared for Incapacity
Although Health Care Directives are often used in emergency situations, they can also help avoid the need for a court-managed guardianship when there is long-term incapacity, such as dementia or traumatic brain injury.
Like the Financial Power of Attorney, this is for use during your lifetime, so it is technically “incapacity planning” rather than “estate planning.” But I offer it as part of the estate planning package because it is convenient for you to do it with your other legal documents.
A Health Care Directive Offers Empowerment
Even though the Health Care Directive is a relatively minor component of an estate plan from a legal standpoint, it’s one I feel very passionately about. Our culture is uncomfortable with loss and grief; we tend to ignore it and pretend that it won’t happen. Thinking about the dying process, while it may sound sad or scary, can actually be very empowering both for you and your loved ones. It helps clarify your wishes and ensure that they will be followed.