Most states recognize some form of advanced directive, often referred to as a health care directive or living will. Understanding the benefits and purpose of a health care directive can help you decide whether executing one should be part of your estate plan.
A health care directive generally allows you to accomplish two important things. First, you may legally appoint someone who will have the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated and unable to do so. You can also appoint an alternate person in the event the first person is unable to serve as your appointee. In the absence of a legal appointment ahead of time, a court is typically required to make the decision to appoint someone and who to appoint if the need arises.
The second function of a living will is to make known your wishes with regard to specific types of treatment or procedures in the event you cannot express those wishes due to an incapacitation. For example, if you do not wish a blood transfusion or do not want to be resuscitated, you may state those wishes in your living will.
Preparing and executing a healthcare directive is usually relatively simple and will be kept on file until such time as you decide to revoke it or modify it. By executing an advanced directive, you can have the peace of mind to know that your wishes with regard to medical treatment will be followed even if you are unable to express them at some point in time.