Estate planning may start with asset distribution, but that is certainly not the only thing that it does. You can also use your estate plan to address your future health needs. One way to do this is with a healthcare directive, but you may find yourself wondering why you need it and what it’s going to accomplish.
Essentially, the main reason you have a health care directive is that you are acknowledging that you may not be able to make all of your own health decisions. As of right now, you’re the only one who is legally allowed to do that on your behalf. But what happens if you become incapacitated? Who can make those choices if you cannot do so?
Writing down your decisions
One way to use a healthcare directive is to list out treatments that you want and to give doctors instructions this way. For instance, there are those who are against being resuscitated, perhaps for religious reasons. If you are, there’s no way to tell the doctors this in the moment, but you can make an order in advance that tells them not to resuscitate you if necessary.
The big problem with using this type of a healthcare directive is simply that the doctors are going to follow the directions and there is no flexibility. Your family may believe that you would actually want something else, but the doctors are bound by that previous decision.
Picking an agent
As such, another option that you have is to use a healthcare power of attorney. This is more flexible because, rather than making your decisions, you choose a person to make them for you. This person is then referred to as your agent.
The benefit is that they can react in real time. If they believe you would want to try a new experimental treatment, they can authorize it. If they think you still wouldn’t want to be resuscitated, they can authorize that as well. Your agent has the chance to talk with your doctors and make the best possible decision for you.
Setting it up
No matter which type of health care directive you decide to use, it’s important to know what legal steps you’ll need to take to set it up.