A health care directive should be part of everyone’s estate plan. Even if you’re young and healthy and have more student debt than assets, if you’re at least 18, you should have a health care directive and name someone as your health care agent. This agent will have the authority to talk with your medical providers if you’re unable to do so.
Once you’re legally an adult, your parents can’t automatically make health care decisions for you unless you authorize them to. The same goes for spouses. One all-too-common scenario that can make an already tragic situation worse is when a person is seriously injured or ill and the spouse and other family members disagree about whether to leave them on life support.
By having a health care directive, you can make your wishes known for things like under what conditions you don’t want life-prolonging measures taken. You can also designate your wishes for organ, tissue and other donations of your body for transplant, research or education. You can even include your wishes for burial or cremation.
Designating your health care agent
By naming a health care agent, even if it’s your spouse or a parent, you designate whom you want to have the final say in these life-and-death decisions. It’s also wise to name an alternate. If you and your spouse are involved in a serious crash, for example, and you’re each other’s agents, doctors will be able to turn to someone else you’ve authorized to make these decisions.
It’s important to make sure whomever you name is aware that you’ve chosen them and agree to take on the responsibility. It’s also a good idea to review your wishes with them to make sure they would be comfortable advocating for them on your behalf.
A health care directive can be a gift to your loved ones
None of this is pleasant to think about. However, many people find that putting a health care directive in place gives them a chance to think about what kind of things make life worth living. By taking the time to do this, you also give your loved ones the gift of not having to make what can be excruciating decisions without knowing for certain whether they’re doing what you would want. With experienced legal guidance, you can take care of this important matter relatively simply.