A complete estate plan consists of three core documents: (1) a Revocable Living Trust (or a Will in certain limited circumstances); (2) a Durable Power of Attorney; and (3) an Advance Health Care Directive. In this article I will focus on the third document.
An Advance Health Care Directive is a written document in which one person (the principal) designates another person (the agent) to make medical decisions on the principal's behalf when the principal is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself. The principal may also predetermine which decisions should be made in certain medical situations. The Advance Health Care Directive thus serves two distinct purposes: (1) appointing an agent, and (2) expressing your desires concerning the medical treatment you would prefer under given medical circumstances.
Through estate planning you can avoid any uncertainty regarding what your wishes are and who will make health care decisions for you in a medical emergency. You should take the time now to select someone who understands your desires and who you trust to exercise discretion in a manner that would be satisfactory to you. © 2009 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.