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Why do you need an advance directive in your estate plan?

Your estate plan serves multiple important roles. It allows you to determine who inherits your property. It provides your loved ones with guidance after you die and possibly closure while grieving. It can also help protect you before your death.

Many estate plans include not just a last will and testament but also documents that take effect in the event of a medical emergency rather than after your death. Powers of attorney could give someone the authority to pay your mortgage, for example.

An advance directive can also be an important document to include, as it gives you an opportunity to have a say in your medical care even if you aren’t able to speak on your own behalf.

What is an advance directive?

Essentially, an advance directive is a legal document describing your specific medical wishes and authorizing another person to carry out those wishes on your behalf. People often include their preferences on everything from life support to blood transfusions and pain control in their advance directives.

When some kind of accident or severe medical event leaves you incapacitated and unable to communicate your preferences or make decisions for yourself, the advance directive takes effect. The person you named to speak on your behalf can manage the care that you receive. The authority to make medical decisions on your behalf ends when you regain your testamentary capacity or consciousness.

Why is an advance directive important?

Obviously, you don’t want the doctors or your family members just guessing about what care you would like to receive. That could mean that they make mistakes that violate your ethical or religious beliefs, or fail to secure care that might save your life.

You also don’t want your family members to have to worry about the decisions they make on your behalf because they don’t know what you would have preferred. An advance directive protects you by ensuring that other people know your wishes, and it protects the people you love by taking the pressure off of them in a tragic situation.

Expanding your estate plan to include an advance directive can be a good decision for people of all ages because you never know when a medical emergency could occur.