What are advance directives and why do I need them?
Advance directives are a set of legal documents that allow you to direct what actions should be taken for your health and property if you are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. These documents are extremely important because they provide a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends, and healthcare professionals when you are unable to do so, and will help to avoid confusion later on. The laws regarding advance directives vary from state to state, so it is important to complete and sign advance directives for the state where you live or expect to receive medical treatment.
What advance directives do I need?
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A durable power of attorney for healthcare designates an agent or proxy to make healthcare decisions if you are unable to make them. In this document, you appoint someone you trust to be your healthcare agent to make any necessary healthcare decisions for you and to ensure that doctors and other healthcare providers give you the type of care you wish to receive.
A living will describes the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want or don't want. There are many issues to address, including:
The use of dialysis and breathing machines;
If you want to be resuscitated if breathing or heartbeat stops;
Tube feeding; and
Organ or tissue donation.
It is important to have a living will as it informs your healthcare providers and your family about your desires for medical treatment in the event you are no longer able to speak for yourself.
General Power of Attorney
The general power of attorney gives a trusted person of your choice the authority to act on your behalf in financial, legal and tax matters if you become incapacitated and cannot look after these matters yourself. General powers of attorney are easy to terminate by either including an expiration date in the document, or notifying the agent and any third parties in writing when you wish to end the general power of attorney.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament declares your final wishes about who will have custody of dependents, and what to do with your real estate, possessions, accounts and financial interests. It is an essential document for you to have to ensure that your assets are handled in the way you intend and to make things a little easier for your loved ones. If you don’t have a valid will, the laws of the state will decide what happens to your property, without regard to your wishes and desires.
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