Many of us have a plan in place for the future. Perhaps you have a savings plan for a future vacation. You may have retirement savings. Writing your will may have let you look prepare for a more distant future, providing for your loved ones, ensuring that your children have what they need and easing the burden on the people you love most after you pass away.
However, your estate plan may not have the documents it needs to plan for other parts of your future. If an illness or accident leaves you unable to make decisions, who will make decisions about your medical care? Do you have specific wishes for your healthcare that you want in writing? Your estate plan can help prepare you and your family for these questions and protect your health if you are unable to answer them yourself.
Who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf?
After an illness or accident, you may need many different forms of medical care to protect your health. One of the best ways to ensure that these decisions are made by someone you trust is to establish a medical power of attorney, also called a healthcare power of attorney. This allows a representative of your choice to make decisions about:
- The foods you will eat
- The medical professionals who will act as your doctor or caregiver
- The treatment, procedures, medications and other care you will receive
- Which hospital or long-term care facility will care for you
- Whether or not to discontinue treatment
Because you may have specific wishes about these decisions, it can be best to discuss your care needs with your agent before they need to make decisions on your behalf.
Do you have specific wishes if your health is in crisis?
While you can leave decisions about critical healthcare to your loved ones through a power of attorney, you can use other documents to make your specific wishes clear. Writing a healthcare directive or living will allows you to outline specific wishes for your care if your health is in crisis. This can include the situations in which you want to receive life-sustaining care like tube feeding or a ventilator, how you want your healthcare providers to manage your pain, organ and tissue donation or the donation of your body for scientific study.
By outlining your wishes for a health crisis, you can ease the burden of those decisions on your family and ensure that you receive the care you want.
While creating your estate plan, you should speak to an attorney about the documents that can provide guidance on your healthcare if you cannot make those decisions yourself. With careful planning, you can protect yourself, your health and your loved ones and answer difficult questions before your health is in jeopardy.