Why Every Adult Needs a Health Care Directive (f/k/a “Living Will”

If you have heard me speak about “my why” you know I believe that a health care directive is one of the most important documents in your estate plan.

A healthcare directive (previously referred to as “living will”) is a legal document that tells your loved ones and doctors how you would want your medical care handled if you become incapacitated and cannot make such decisions yourself, particularly at the end of life.  Specifically, a health care directive outlines the procedures, medications, and treatments you would want and would not want to prolong your life if you cannot make such decisions yourself. It can also include instructions for end of life such as whether you want to be an organ and tissue donor and whether you want to be buried or cremated.  

For example, within the terms of your health care directive, you can articulate certain decisions, such as if and when you would want life support removed should you ever require it and whether you would want hydration and nutrition supplied to prolong your life.

Beyond instructions about your medical care, a health care directive can even describe what type of food you want and who can visit you in the hospital. These are critical considerations for your well-being at a time of greatest need for you. And if you haven’t provided any specific instructions, decisions will be made on your behalf that you likely will not want.

In addition to telling your loved ones and doctors how you want your medical handled, you can also use the health care directive to appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

Why Having a Health Care Directive is so Important

A health care directive is a vital part of every adult’s estate plan, as it can ensure your medical treatment is handled exactly the way you want if you cannot communicate your needs and wishes. Additionally, a health care directive can prevent your family from undergoing needless trauma and conflict during an already trying time. 

Without a health care directive, your family would have to guess what treatments you might want, and your loved ones are likely to experience stress and guilt over the decisions they make on your behalf. In worst cases, your family members could even end up battling one another in court over who should manage your medical care and how.

Should You Rely on a Health Care Directive Created Online?

While there is a wide selection of health care directives, living wills, medical powers of attorney, and other advance directive documents online, you likely want more guidance and peace of mind than is available through an online service to support you to address such critical decisions adequately. Regarding your medical treatment and end-of-life care, you have unique needs and wishes that cannot be anticipated or adequately addressed by generic documents or without the counseling and guidance we can provide through your decision-making process.

To ensure your directives are tailored to suit your unique situation, work with experienced estate planning professionals like us, your local Personal Family Lawyer® to support you to create and/or review your health care directive.

What if I Have an Old Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive?

Before August 1, 1998, Minnesota law provided for several documents including a living will which was used to articulate your wishes for medical care and a medical power of attorney which was used to name an agent to make medical decisions in the event of your incapacity. The law changed so people can use one form for all their health care instructions. Forms created before August 1, 1998, are still legal if they followed the law in effect when written. They are also legal if they meet the requirements of the new law (signed and either notarized or witnessed by two people). We recommend reviewing your estate planning documents every three years so if you have a health directive more than three years old, we recommend scheduling an appointment for us to review your documents.

What If I Prepared my Health Care Directive in Another State? Is It Still Good?

Health care directives prepared in other states are legal if they meet the requirements of the other state’s laws or the Minnesota requirements.

How Can We Help

Even if you have a professionally prepared and well-thought-out health care directive, it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if nobody knows about it. A health care directive comes into effect the second you sign it, so you should immediately deliver copies to your agent, alternate agents, primary care physician, and other medical specialists.

Additionally, don’t forget to give those individuals new versions whenever you update those documents and have them destroy the old documents. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, delivering the latest copies of your health care directive and other estate planning documents is a standard part of our Life & Legacy Planning Process. We ensure that everyone who needs your documents always has the latest version.

And since unforeseen illness or injury could strike at any time. Don’t wait to plan your will. Contact us to get this critical document in place. Call us today to schedule an appointment: https://app.lawmatics.com/forms/share/adc42f00-ab0b-4f2d-9809-4059c12a25b2

This article is a service of Jennifer M. Spalding, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge. 

The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.

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