More than two years into the pandemic and how life has changed for most of us, if not all. It’s changed how we do our day-to-day activities. It’s made a huge impact on relationships. It’s affected the economy and people’s financial situations... And these are all just the tip of the iceberg!
A lot (Everything!) has changed indeed, and estate planning is no exception.
Those without estate plans have now recognized how important (especially in these times) getting one is. Those with, on the other hand, have realized why incorporating advance healthcare directives is crucial in strengthening, and maximizing the benefits of, their pre-existing plans. (again, especially in these times)
In the realm of estate and legacy planning, you can call this a positive development. It’s GREAT that more and more people are realizing the significance of getting an estate plan, that’s for sure! But of course, with or without the pandemic, estate planning and advance care planning are and have always been instrumental in peaceful and worry-free living, regardless of what the future holds.
Today, let’s zero in on the latter–that is, advance care planning. In particular, let’s talk all about advance healthcare directives in today’s post, and why you should consider including one to reinforce your plan.
What is an advance healthcare directive?
An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that allows you to spell out, ahead of time, your preferences and decisions relating to healthcare matters, with particular focus on end-of-life care. It’s specifically useful when you are unable to make and communicate your decisions yourself–decisions on procedures, treatments, medications, as well as agency–because of incapacity.
At this point, you’re perhaps reminded of our discussion on living wills? It’s one example of an advance healthcare directive–a popular one, in fact! To recap, a living will is a legal document that explains your wishes and preferences so that your doctors and caregivers can provide you with the kind of medical care you want, especially concerning end-of-life care matters.
In light of this, living wills are often interchanged with advance healthcare directives. Don’t be misled, though! Note that a living will is, indeed, an advance healthcare directive, but it is but a kind. To put it another way, all living wills are advance healthcare directives, but NOT all advance healthcare directives are living wills. (Hope I didn’t confuse you right there!)
Another kind is the healthcare power of attorney. (Also discussed briefly in our incapacity planning blog post!) A healthcare POA is a document where you get to appoint a person who will make medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do it yourself. In other words, a healthcare POA deals with the who’s, as opposed to a living will that concerns itself with the how’s (of medical care).
Who should get one? Is this for me?
“Advance directive? Sounds like an old people problem to me!”
If this is you, let me tell you straight up–nope, advance healthcare directives are not just for the elderly! No matter how young you are (as long as you are old enough to enter into a contract, that is), you are highly encouraged to get an advance healthcare directive, for the simple reason that illnesses and accidents know no age.
I don’t mean to scare you or anything! I know this seems a little too morbid to think and talk about, but the reality is that any person, regardless of age, can experience a serious mishap or illness that may leave her incapacitated and thus render her unable to communicate her preferences regarding medical care. This, exactly, is what an advance healthcare directive is for!
Come to think of it, you have a lot to gain and nothing to lose here! Getting the advance healthcare directives suitable for you ensures that you are still in control–whatever happens and whenever they do happen. And this is without having to go through anything tedious and burdensome; all you need is the help of a good, budget-friendly estate planning attorney who’d smooth the way for you! ;)
The same can be said for your loved ones, too! That is, they would also reap benefits when you do get an advance healthcare directive. No need for second-guessing, arguing, unnecessary spending, and whatnot. If and when the need arises, your advance healthcare directive would tell them what and what not to do, what and what not to avail, who shall take charge, and so on.
That’s one less thing (or a lot of things less, actually, if you think about it!) for them to worry about.
What should I consider in creating one?
“I’m sold! But how and where do I even start?!”
Great that you’re convinced of the importance of advance directives! Here are a few important points to help you get started:
Think about the possible scenarios, and address them.
In drafting your advance healthcare directives, it’s important that you’re able to carefully consider situations that would necessitate, well, your advance instructions! Here are some of the common ones you see addressed in most of these documents:
In case of an illness or accident with chances of recovery, what kind of medical treatment do I want administered? To what extent (in terms of complexity and cost of procedures, for instance) should the treatment be?
In case of a terminal condition or a misfortune that places me in a vegetative state, what kind of life-sustaining treatment should be provided, if in the first place preferred?
In case of a healthcare POA, who do I want to make decisions for me in case of my incapacity?
Realistically speaking, of course, you won’t be able to anticipate all possible medical circumstances, and that’s absolutely fine! Note that advance healthcare directives are in place to serve as a general guidance for your doctors and caregivers, as well as your family and loved ones. Don’t feel pressured about covering EVERYTHING!
Communication is key.
The job isn’t done once you have your documents prepared. Next step is to make sure the persons concerned are made aware about your directives! This means communicating with your family, primary care physician, and/or agent (in case of a POA) about the existence of your advance healthcare directives, and, preferably, delivering copies of these documents to them.
(Them knowing that you have advance directives
isn’t enough–they gotta understand what’s expected of them, too!)
Help is available!
To reiterate, advance healthcare directives are legal documents–there are legalities and certain technicalities involved (apart from the medical aspect of things, of course) to ensure proper execution and implementation. You don’t want to put all your efforts in drafting and planning to waste, do you?
Nothing to be intimidated about, though! Professional help is available. (ahem! *wink, wink*)