As you assemble your estate plan, you may encounter terms and estate planning documents you know little about. For instance, are you familiar with advance directives?
The American Cancer Society breaks down advance directives as estate planning documents. Learn how to ensure your loved ones know your end-of-life desires even if you cannot communicate them verbally.
For an advance directive, you draft a legal document that conveys your medical choices if you become medically incapacitated. The document notes your end-of-life medical desires and the individuals you want to make decisions for you when you cannot. For instance, if you fall into a coma or develop Alzheimer’s, you may not have the ability to communicate whether you want to donate your organs or receive specific medical treatments. Rather than use their most favorable guess, your friends and family instead refer to your advance directive to understand what you want and do not want.
Types of advance directives
You have a few different options if you want to create an advance directive. Living wills are advance directives that activate at the end of life when a person falls permanently unconscious or terminally ill. With a durable power of attorney for health care, you name a person as your proxy to make medical decisions for you if you cannot. While a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form lets you communicate your health care wishes, it is not an advance directive.
Put your advance directive in place sooner rather than later. While you may not like thinking about the end of your life, pushing past your anxiety and planning for the inevitable helps your loved ones take care of you.