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Do you have all your end-of-life documents ready?

When it comes to making your end-of-life wishes known, it is important to understand the differences between creating an advanced medical directive and appointing a health care representative. Far too many people do not fully execute one or the other of these two aspects of end-of-life planning, greatly weakening their loved one's power to follow their wishes. Still others seem to think that advanced medical directives and health care representative appointments are the same thing. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding often causes serious problems.

When you create your advanced medical directive, you establish your preferences for how you wish your life to end or be prolonged in the event that you cannot clearly communicate. Some people have very specific needs or preferences, and it is not enough to verbally convey them to a loved one. Furthermore, in the intensity of a life or death moment, your loved ones may not agree on how to act on your behalf.

A similar, but distinct, document is a health care representative appointment. This clearly indicates who you wish to act on your behalf if you cannot communicate, and also grants that individual the legal authority to do so. These documents are also sometimes known as health care powers of attorney.

If you are considering your end-of-life wishes, be sure that you fully express them in a proper advanced medical directive and then grant legal authority to carry them out to someone you know and trust. Should you fail to create these important documents, your loved ones may face the unpleasant prospect of determining what they think you want, which is a heavy burden. An experienced attorney can help you navigate these issues and prepare ideal documents for your needs.

Source: NWI Times, "Estate Planning: Know your rights when handling family matters," Christopher Yugo, Aug. 20, 2017

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