Do I need a health care directive?

At any stage in life, it’s important to plan for your future. As you get older, the plans may change. Instead of making provisions for kid’s college funds and retirement, you need to plan for what should be done if you suffer serious health complications or can no longer care for yourself. It can be difficult to think about and it’s easy to avoid planning for the worst or to continue putting it off. However, it is important to make a plan for your future now, not only to give yourself peace of mind that your wishes will be followed, but also to ease the burden on your children and loved ones so that they won’t end up making these difficult decisions on their own.

What is a health care directive?

A health care directive is one tool to use when creating your estate plan to make sure your wishes about your own medical care are established and followed in the event that you cannot make the necessary critical decisions about your care.

In Minnesota, an adult (18 years old or older) can establish a health care directive, which is a written document that states your preferences about your medical care if injury, illness or incapacity (physical or mental) makes you unable to do so. Your preferences may include what you want done in certain circumstances and also what measures you do not want taken on your behalf. In addition, you may designate an agent to make decisions about your medical care when you are unable to do so. Your health care agent should be someone you trust, like a spouse, family member or close friend and cannot be your treating physician or other health care professional (unless he or she is also a family member).

Is a health care directive required?

A health care directive can be created, changed or revoked at any time when you have capacity to do so. Without creating this type of document, you will still be treated and provided with medical care. However, you cannot be sure the right people will be making the right decisions. In some cases, decisions may be made by estranged family members, doctors who may not know your preferences and in some cases, even judges. Without establishing your wishes, you cannot be certain that if you no longer have capacity, the decisions made for you will be what you would have chosen.

A health care directive is not required, but it is recommended in order to make sure your wishes are followed and to ease the burden on loved ones in a stressful and emotional situation. It makes sure both your loved ones and your doctors are informed about your preferences, understand them and follow them. If you have questions about creating a health care directive, contact an attorney experienced in estate planning solutions to answer your questions and help you create a customized plan for your future.