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Do you need an advance directive?

Right now, you are healthy enough to make your own medical decisions. However, as you do your estate planning, you are well aware that that may not always be the case. Yes, estate planning does focus on what happens after you pass away, but you may also want to consider what you can do if injury, illness, disease or age make it so that you can't make all of your decisions on your own.

One thing to consider is an advance directive. It focuses on medical decisions. You can spell out your wishes in this legal document so that your medical care providers understand exactly what you do and do not want. This also tells your family what you want, which can take some pressure of off them. Remember that, without instructions, it can be very stressful for children to make the medical decisions they think their parents would want.

For example, perhaps you do not want to be kept on life support. If you have a heart attack or a stroke and the only way for you to survive is life support, but you would prefer not to use it. Giving care providers and heirs this instruction in the directive means they do not have to make that decision on their own. They don't have to guess about what you would have wanted. They already know. Even when you can't make the decision in the moment, you still get the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes will be respected.

An advance directive is just one part of estate planning. Be sure you know what options to consider.

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