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Is a health care directive part of your estate plan?

Maybe you had a health scare this past year and spent some time in the hospital, unable to communicate your wishes. This may have been a frightening time as you wondered whether those closest to you really understood the kind of measures you expected doctors to take for your recovery.

On the other hand, perhaps you dealt with the illness of someone who left no instructions about his or her wishes for medical treatment. You may have been frustrated as you debated with other family members over the course of action you thought most appropriate for your ailing loved one. These scenarios play out too frequently because only 30% of adults in the U.S. have a health care directive in place.

What does an advance directive do?

A health care directive is an important part of a complete estate plan. While you may associate estate planning with the distribution of your assets after your death, the fact is that your estate plan can protect you in certain cases while you are still living. One of those ways is through a health care directive, which spells out your wishes for medical intervention in case you are unable to express those wishes. Your health care directive can do the following and much more:

  • Designate a trusted person to speak on your behalf if you are unable to
  • Specify the circumstances under which you do not want doctors to resuscitate you or use extraordinary means to sustain your life
  • Outline the kinds of palliative care you desire if you want no more medical intervention
  • Clarify your wishes for your body after your death, such as burial, cremation or donation

As difficult as it may be to consider these issues, it is impossible to know the future. At any time, an accident or illness may rob you of your ability to communicate, and you would be at the mercy of those who may not know or understand your wishes. Perhaps you have already received a diagnosis of a terminal illness or one that will end in dementia. Outlining your wishes now can spare your loved ones the turmoil and contention that often bring families to the courtroom.

Just because you cannot speak does not mean you have no voice. By signing an advance medical directive, you can make your will known to your loved ones and, most importantly, to your medical team. A compassionate North Carolina attorney can walk you through the steps and guide you in making decisions that will provide you with peace of mind.

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