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Many people understand the importance of planning for the future financially. However, not as many focus their estate planning needs on medical and healthcare concerns. Having a legal plan in place in the event one is unable to make his or her own medical decisions ensures that the medical team is following the right care plan.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an advance directive or living will outlines someone’s specific instructions in the event of a terminal illness, coma, serious injury or Alzheimer’s disease. While it is not something most people want to think about, it is worth taking the time to consider what life-extending or saving treatments they would want. Some of the considerations to ponder and discuss with the doctor include

  • Feeding tube and/or breathing ventilator
  • CPR
  • Comfort care
  • Medication use
  • Dialysis
  • Organ and body donation

Put these instructions in a legal document, and make sure to give copies to all healthcare providers, family members and healthcare surrogate. A surrogate, also known as a power of attorney, is the person who makes sure the medical team carries out the patient’s wishes.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, it is a good idea to take adequate time to choose the right person for the role as healthcare surrogate. This person should be someone the patient trusts to be dependable and who will follow the instructions no matter what anyone else thinks. It is beneficial if the person lives locally and is healthy. A surrogate must also be able to ask healthcare providers tough questions and stand up to family members who do not agree with the directive.