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Advance healthcare directive: What is it, and do I need one?

No one can predict the future, especially when it comes to health-related developments. As much as most of us would like to think otherwise, life sometimes intervenes in ways that take us and our loved ones by surprise.

In the realm of personal health, that might mean that a medical emergency suddenly arises that no family member has even remotely contemplated. Alternatively, it can simply mean that a person is reaching the end of his or her life, but has failed to engage in any timely planning that will provide guidance to family members regarding potentially important health care decisions that will need to be made.

In short, and as noted in a primer on advance healthcare directives, families often find themselves unprepared when the time comes to discuss what a loved one who can no longer communicate might want -- or does not want -- regarding medical treatment or intervention. Moreover, it can be unclear who is entitled to make decisions and act upon such things.

Such uncertainty never needs to be the case at end-of-life moments or when a loved one is ill and can't communicate care-related desires. An advance directive (often called a living will) that is in place can spell out in detail the wishes of its drafter regarding medical treatment. Working In tandem with such a directive, a medical power of attorney can specify one or more people who will have legal authority to carry out those wishes.

For obvious reasons, health care-related issues can be emotional and difficult for families, especially when they have never been discussed or planned for in any definitive way.

The execution of an advance directive and power of attorney (and additional documents in Texas) can go far toward easing family fears and stresses regarding such things. In fact, having relevant documents in hand can often bring great comfort to a family.

A proven estate planning attorney can provide further information.

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