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The importance of advance directives

Advance directives are essential components of any estate plan. While many of these documents relate to what will happen when you pass away, advance directives relate to what will happen when you are still alive but need someone else to make decisions on your behalf. 

Even if you are still fairly young, you still need to create a thorough estate plan. You never know when tragedy will strike. By getting advance directives in place well before anything happens, you can have peace of mind if something unexpected does occur. 

Living will

Most people are familiar with a will, but you need to make sure you have a living will in place for certain functions. It has more limitations than a standard health care power of attorney, but it describes what medical treatments you want as it applies to end-of-life procedures. Typically, this document only kicks into effect when you are terminally ill. It states what you want to happen if anything at all. Some people want as many treatments as possible to keep themselves alive while others want to pass away on their own terms. Similar to a health care power of attorney, you may revoke a living will at any time. 

Health care power of attorney 

This is a different type of advance directive, which allows you to choose a family member, significant other or friend to make decisions on your behalf as it relates to health care issues. There may be situations where you cannot make rational medical decisions independently. You may fall into a coma or are not in the right state of mind. This person you select has to be at least 18 years old. This form of power of attorney only relates to health care decisions, so this person will not be able to make financial decisions for you. That will require a financial power of attorney. You have the right to change the instructions or select a different agent at any time. 

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