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Why advance medical directives are important

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2024 | Estate Planning

When Maryland residents think about estate planning, it is natural to focus on a will. This allows them to dictate where their property will go after they are gone and is a fundamental part of being fully prepared. It can prevent family members from getting into extended disputes as the person – the testator – will state clearly what their objectives are.

However, there are other aspects of estate planning that are frequently forgotten but are not any less important. For those who have specific wishes for their health care decisions, it is important to understand the value of an advance medical directive.

Know the facts about an advance medical directive

With an advance medical directive, the person can make their decisions about health care before they are in a position where they cannot express their desires for themselves. For some, that means ensuring that every conceivable option is explored to try and help them when they are ill or incapacitated. For others, there are limits on what type of care they will receive.

The advance medical directive removes these life and death decisions from the hands of family members who might not want the responsibility or do not know what the person would prefer. There are two aspects of this document: a living will and a health care power of attorney.

The living will specifies what the person wants when they are getting medical treatment at or near the end of their life. For example, some people do not want to be placed on a respirator if they cannot breathe on their own and would not survive without it. An advance medical directive can prevent it from being done.

A health care power of attorney requires that a person be named as the surrogate to serve as their health care agent and decide how they will be cared for if the person cannot decide for themselves. The health care agent has substantial responsibility, so it is important to pick a trustworthy person who knows the person and will serve their best interests.

When estate planning, consider an advance medical directive

The value of an advance medical directive lies in it being a legal document that keeps the power in the person’s hands even if they are unable to express what they want for themselves. The document needs to be valid for the medical professionals to follow it, so that makes it imperative to have guidance with creating one and naming those who will express the principal’s wishes. For this and other estate planning considerations, it is wise to have professional advice and help from the start.