During your estate planning process, you may be considering including an advance health care directive in your plan. Also known as a living will, an advance health care directive is a document that allows you to clarify your health care wishes if you become unable to speak for yourself.

Drafting your advance directive

Having an advance directive in your estate plan lets you maintain control over your own health care decisions, even when you can no longer express them. To ensure that you have all your bases covered, here are three things you’ll want to include when creating your advance directive:

  • Health care proxy — Even when you’re keeping your decisions in your own hands, you’ll need someone to carry out those wishes. Naming a health care proxy in your advance directive will guarantee that medical staff and family members follow your instructions. This person should be capable and willing to do what you’ve asked. It’s also a good idea to name an alternative proxy as a backup.
  • End-of-life wishes — While it can be tough to think about, it’s important to include how you’d like your caregivers to handle emergency situations regarding your life. This includes instructions on CPR and ventilator use, feeding tubes or IVs and “do not resuscitate” orders. Making your wishes clear surrounding this difficult topic can spare your family from making the tough decision for you. It can even help keep heated arguments and disagreements at bay.
  • Posthumous decisions — You will also want to consider including instructions regarding your care after you pass. Organ and tissue donation are topics that you might want to think about and include in the terms of your advance directive. An advance directive might also be one of the places where you express your burial or cremation wishes.

Open communication is the first step

Drafting an advance directive can be a daunting task. It can be difficult to imagine a world in which you aren’t able to express yourself clearly.

However, the first step in overcoming that barrier and preparing to draft your advance directive is to communicate openly and honestly with the people involved in your life while you are able. This includes doctors, medical staff, family and friends. Doing so can help prepare your loved ones and keep surprises out of the picture.

An advance health care directive can help you meet your goals and maintain control over your own decisions. While creating one isn’t necessary, it’s a safeguard for both your and your family’s future.