Many people think that estate planning is something you really don’t need to worry about until you get older. But there are some aspects of estate planning that can be important no matter what your age – an advance directive is one of those. It can have a significant impact on you, and your loved ones, regardless of how old you are.
Advance directive: living wills
An advance directive is nothing more than a set of instructions, executed by you, so that others know how you would like to be medically cared for should you become incapacitated.
A living will and a last will and testament are not the same. It’s called a living will because you are alive when you execute it. It takes effect if you become diagnosed with some sort of terminal condition.
The living will is your means of expressing your wishes when you are unable to do so. It states what life-prolonging treatment or procedures you would, or would not, want to receive. Once executed, you should provide it to your doctor, so it can be included in your medical record and available if needed.
Advance directive: surrogates
A healthcare surrogate is someone you appoint to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Whereas a living will is only effective if you’re terminally ill, your appointment of a surrogate applies to any situation where you are incapacitated – for example, in a car accident and you are unconscious. Your surrogate is someone you trust, usually a family member or close friend, who knows you well and will act with your best interests in mind.
There is no need to choose between executing a living will or appointing a surrogate – you can do both, so that they each supplement the other. Once completed, they will remain valid until you choose to change or cancel them.