Why your estate plan should include an advance directive

Apr 17, 2023

At some point in life, you might become incapacitated and unable to speak or act on your own behalf. While no one likes to consider such possibilities, especially those who are young, strong and able, it’s helpful to think about such things in terms of ensuring that others will meet your wishes if you are ever to receive end-of-life care or long-term care in a nursing facility. Executing an estate plan that includes an advance directive is a helpful tool.

By initiating an advance directive, you can give your loved ones peace of mind. If you suffered catastrophic injuries in a collision or are entering the final stages of a terminal illness, your family members would already be in distress. Knowing that you have an advance directive in place may alleviate some of their stress.

What exactly does having an advance directive do?

As much as being able to state certain things you want, incorporating an advance directive into your estate plan enables you to state certain things you do NOT want, as well. For example, you can state that you do not want procedures that merely extend life without providing a cure for a medical condition, such as remaining on life support with no hope of recovery.

You can also state that you do not wish to be hospitalized when doctors have stated that there is nothing more they can do for you and death is imminent. You can also use an advance directive to authorize a specific person to make decisions on your behalf regarding healthcare.

Additional issues to address in your healthcare plan

As part of your advance directive, you may include instructions for numerous other issues or situations, such as those shown in the following list:

  • Spiritual care: You may request a faith minister’s visit to your bedside if you are nearing death.
  • Visitors: You can implement restrictions or give permission regarding who may or may not visit you in the hospital, a hospice facility or at home.
  • Location: If you do not want to die in a hospital, you can state instructions in your directive that say you want to spend your final days or hours at home.

You must meet certain requirements for an advance directive to be valid and legally enforceable. For instance, two people must sign the document. You may not list either of them in the document. You can also revise an advance directive, provided you are of sound mind when you do so. The estate planning process is highly customizable, and an advance directive is one of many documents that may fit your needs.

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