Few documents hold the weight of an advance directive in your estate planning portfolio. This document defines your healthcare wishes in the event of your incapacitation.
When you decide that the time is right to draft your advance directive, there are several factors to consider.
1. Appoint your healthcare proxy
One key element of your advance directive is the appointment of your healthcare proxy. This person becomes your advocate, communicating to your medical care team on your behalf. Choose someone who understands your values and can handle the responsibility. A family member, friend or even a trusted advisor could fill this role.
2. Practice clear communication
Vague language in an advance directive can lead to misinterpretation. Be specific about your healthcare preferences, outlining scenarios and interventions that align with your values. Address your preferences about the use of life-sustaining measures as well as your wishes for organ donation and specific medical treatments. This helps your proxy understand what you want for your care.
3. Review your plan regularly
Regularly revisit and update your advance directive to reflect any changes in your beliefs, priorities or medical condition. What seemed appropriate years ago might not align with your present self. A proactive approach ensures that your wishes stay current even as your perspectives shift.
4. Discuss your plan with family
A common mistake people make is creating the advance directive and never talking about it again. Discuss your wishes with your loved ones so that you avoid any surprises at the moment when it matters most. Make sure everyone knows what to expect and what your wishes are. This provides clarity and reduces the risk of conflict.
Your advance directive defines your preferred healthcare journey when you can not express it yourself. Fewer than a third of the adults in the U.S. have established an advance directive. Eliminate the uncertainty for your loved ones with a clearly defined plan.