Estate planning is not just about divvying up what you own among the people that you love. It is also the process that protects you if your health gets bad and solidifies protections for the people you care about both legally and emotionally.
Too many people in Montana overlook the importance of an advance directive when it comes to their health and future plans. That oversight could mean leaving loved ones feeling stressed and uncertain about what medical decisions to make on your behalf in an emergency situation.
Advance directives are often part of living wills or more comprehensive estate plans. These important documents, which you file with the state, guide medical professionals providing your care and family members deciding what care you receive.
How do advance directives work?
There are circumstances when you won’t be able to speak up about your own preferences regarding your health care. You could experience an incapacitating medical event like a stroke or get into a car crash that leaves you unconscious. Alternately, you may experience cognitive decline due to conditions that cause dementia and confusion.
When you are unable to speak for yourself either due to unconsciousness or as a result of a lack of capacity, other people will have to make decisions about the medical care that you receive. Having an advance directive on record will make it certain that those decisions reflect your preferences and wishes. You can file the document with the state, provide one to your primary care physician and even have copies in your home for your loved ones to access if they need it.
What should you address in your advance directive?
Some people only create advance directives after they receive a severe diagnosis. For example, someone with a terminal brain tumor might create a directive to not resuscitate them if they stop breathing or their heart stops beating.
Other people will create a document that generally explains their wishes in the case of medical issues in the future. Many people have preferences about nutrition assistance, life support, organ donation, blood transfusions and even pain medication.
It is up to you which medical scenarios you want to address in your directive, but addressing as many as possible and being specific about your wishes and preferences will give you the most protection.