Advance Directives: Protecting Your Control over Your Wishes


Attorney, Michel L. Watson, Esq.


Understanding Advance Directives: Essential Components of Your Estate Plan

Planning for the future is a responsible and prudent step that everyone should take, regardless of age or health status. One critical aspect of estate planning is the creation of advance directives, which outline your wishes and preferences for medical care and decision-making in the event that you become incapacitated. Advance directives provide clarity, guidance, and peace of mind for you and your loved ones during challenging times. In this blog post, we’ll explore the need for advance directives as part of an estate plan, including the durable power of attorney, designation of a health care surrogate, and designation of a preneed guardian. Additionally, we’ll discuss the risks associated with not having these documents in place.

The Importance of Advance Directives

1. Durable Power of Attorney:

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to manage your financial and legal affairs if you become incapacitated. This designated individual, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, can make decisions on your behalf regarding banking, investments, property management, and other financial matters.

2. Designation of Health Care Surrogate:

A designation of health care surrogate enables you to appoint a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Your health care surrogate can communicate with medical professionals, consent to or refuse medical treatments, and ensure that your wishes regarding end-of-life care are honored.

3. Designation of Preneed Guardian:

In the event that you become incapacitated and a court determines that you are unable to make decisions for yourself, a designation of preneed guardian allows you to nominate someone to serve as your guardian. This individual will be responsible for making personal and medical decisions on your behalf, ensuring that your needs and preferences are respected.

Risks of Not Having Advance Directives

1. Loss of Control:

Without advance directives in place, decisions regarding your medical care and finances may be left in the hands of individuals who may not understand your wishes or act in your best interests. This can lead to disputes among family members and uncertainty regarding your preferences.

2. Delayed Decision-Making:

In the absence of advance directives, family members may face delays and obstacles in making important decisions on your behalf. This can result in confusion, stress, and potential disagreements among loved ones during already challenging circumstances.

3. Court Intervention:

Without advance directives, there is a risk that a court may need to intervene to appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions on your behalf. This process can be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining for your loved ones, and may not align with your wishes or priorities.

Conclusion: Protecting Your Future and Your Wishes

In conclusion, advance directives are essential components of your estate plan that provide crucial guidance and protection in the event of incapacity. By creating durable powers of attorney, designating health care surrogates, and appointing preneed guardians, you can ensure that your wishes are respected, your interests are protected, and your loved ones are empowered to make decisions on your behalf. Failing to have these documents in place can expose you to risks such as loss of control, delayed decision-making, and court intervention, highlighting the importance of proactive planning and preparation for the future. By taking the necessary steps to create advance directives, you can gain peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be honored and your loved ones will be supported during challenging times.