The estate planning process is all about preparing for the future. For instance, with a will or trust, you may establish how you’d like your assets to be allocated following your death, ensuring you leave the right kind of legacy for the people you love. Additionally, estate planning may be a vehicle for determining who gets custody of your minor children, should something happen to both you and your spouse or co-parent.
Another way in which estate planning helps you prepare: It lets you establish your wishes for end-of life care, particularly through the use of an advance health care directive.
What is a Health Care Directive?
If this term is unfamiliar to you, it may be helpful for us to offer a brief overview. So, what is a health care directive, and what role should it play in your estate plan?
Basically, an advance health care directive is a legal document where you explain the kinds of healthcare decisions you’d like to be made on your behalf, should you ever find yourself in a position where you cannot make those decisions, or voice those decisions, for yourself.
For example, a health care directive can help you establish the wishes you’d like carried out should you find yourself in a coma, or in a persistent vegetative state. With an advance directive, you can outline your values and desires about if and when life-support services (like breathing machines and feeding tubes) should be administered, and when they should be suspended.
This can provide you with a lot of peace of mind about how your final days could unfold, and it also provides a lot of clarity to your family members. If you outline your wishes in advance, it spares them from having to argue with each other or try to determine what you’d really want.
The best way to set up a directive is to work with an advance directive attorney. Your advance directive attorney will be able to walk you through both the advantages and the limitations of these documents and explain how other documents (like a directive power of attorney) might complement your estate plan.
For example, it’s important to note that an advance health care directive only allows you to express your wishes regarding medical decisions, not financial or business matters. If you want to have a document that allows you to plan for financial matters, you may want to ask your attorney about having a financial power of attorney.
Once you have your advance health care directive established, you’ll want to make sure it’s notarized in the presence of at least two witnesses. (Your law firm can handle all of this.) From there, it’s best to keep a file on hand, preferably in a place where your spouse or adult children could easily find it. Also leave a copy with your estate planning lawyer, and make sure you pass along a copy to your primary care physician.
And again, it’s best to consult with an attorney who can advise you on any other documents that you might like to keep along with your advance health care directive, such as a health care power of attorney or a financial power of attorney.
If you’re ready to set up an advance directive in Fremont, we welcome you to contact the team at Singh Law Firm. We’re the law firm of choice for advance care planning, and we’d love to tell you more about your estate planning options.