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An Estate Planning Document Most Americans Don’t Have but Should

Estate planning can be a complex and uncomfortable process for many, but it is an important step to ensure that your assets are left to your loved ones. Creating a comprehensive estate plan consists of various legal documents, such as a will, trust, and power of attorney. However, most Americans overlook one legal document when creating an estate plan--a health care directive.

If you need guidance creating a comprehensive estate plan, contact our Madison estate planning attorneys today at (608) 292-5185.

What Is a Health Care Directive?

A health care directive, also known as living wills, or medical power of attorney, is a legal document that can help you specify your decisions for caregivers in the event of illness or end of life decisions. It can also provide guidance on how the caregiver should handle your body after death. A recent study discovered that only a third of all Americans have a health care directive. Although creating a health care directive might be uncomfortable for many, it can help your loved ones make tough decisions in medical situations.

How Can I Create a Health Care Directive?

The first step to creating a health care directive is to choose an agent. The agent you choose will act on your behalf to make decisions that are listed on your estate plan. It is important to choose someone who will respect your wishes and align with your values. In most cases, a spouse or an adult child becomes an agent for a health care directive.

Whether you choose to create a living will or medical power of attorney, it could become a long and complex process. Having an experienced estate planning attorney can help you create the legal documents you need to ensure that your wishes are respected in the event of an accident or death.

What Is a Living Will?

A living will is a legal document that tells others your personal choices about end-of-life medical treatment. It can explain which procedures or medications you do or don’t want. These decisions could be a precaution if you are involved in a deadly accident or are currently suffering a serious illness.

A living will is different from a normal will because it only explains your preferences in specific medical circumstances. It doesn’t explain how you want your assets or property to be handled after your death.

What Is a Medical Power of Attorney?

With a medical power of attorney, you can choose an agent to make medical decisions for you if you can’t talk to the doctors yourself. A medical power of attorney won’t include your specific preferences regarding end-of-life treatment (like a living will); instead, it grants your agent permission to make decisions for you.

Ideally, you would select a person you can trust to speak on your behalf and act with your best interests in mind. You could also have a conversation with your agent to explain to them how you would like to handle medical situations if you are unable to make decisions in the future.

Advance Directives

Advance directives are made up of several documents, such as a living will, a medical power of attorney, and specific instructions about a diagnosed illness. An advance directive can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that will honor and protect your wishes in the event of an unexpected medical issue. Failing to have these legal documents can make it challenging for your loved ones to make decisions in tough situations.

If you need guidance creating your comprehensive estate plan, contact our Madison estate planning attorneys today at (608) 292-5185 to schedule a consultation!

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