Health care directive most underused document in estate planning

| Dec 24, 2019 | Estate Planning

Many people don’t pause to think about the importance and necessity of having an estate plan. When Illinois residents do make time for estate planning, some usually neglect one crucial document: a health care directive. In fact, two-thirds of all Americans don’t have this document in their plans and that may be a major error.

A health care directive outlines what the maker would want done or not done in the event of serious illness or dementia — in other words when he or she couldn’t make decisions on his or her own. A health care directive designates an individual or individuals (known as an agent) to make those decisions on a person’s behalf. These documents are often known as living wills, durable health care powers of attorney or medical directives. They can also stipulate what is to be done with the body of the person granting the power after his or her death.

This important document allows the maker to retain control over what happens even when the individual can’t speak for him or herself, and it has become an integral addition to a well-rounded estate plan. An agent can make decisions consistent with the maker’s wishes such as those surrounding end-of-life care and whether to prolong life. It is important for the person granting the power to choose an agent whose values are similar to his or hers. 

An Illinois estate planning attorney can sit with a client and further expound on the importance of certain documents like a health care directive. It is one of the more personal documents in an estate plan. A compassionate lawyer may be able to help a client fashion a document that is in line with his or her beliefs.