The Importance of Directives

An Advance Health Care Directive is a frequently-overlooked part of the estate planning process. In some states, an Advance Health Care Directive (also sometimes called a “Living Will”) is combined with a Health Care Power of Attorney document. The directive expresses the client’s wishes regarding end-of-life decisions. Unfortunately, it is a reality that all of us will die. We can each choose whether we wish to extend our lives by every means possible, or have a shorter life that may have more dignity. It is best to consider and state wishes on these decisions before the decisions are relevant.

If a person is in a terminal condition, in addition to their Advance Health Care Directive, the person will want to speak with their physician about “no code” orders. In some states, a Physician’s Order on Life-Sustaining Treatment, or “POLST,” might be appropriate.  We do not have such a document in Illinois.

One of my roles is to help my clients plan for their incapacity and their death, including end-of-life decisions. I can help clients prepare for the potentially distressful things that may come their way and thereby reduce the negative impact, both financially and emotionally.

Many published articles demonstrate how proper planning may alleviate a great deal of suffering, not only for my client(s), but of those closest to them, as well. It reminds us that planning to whom and how assets are passed is only a minor part of estate planning, just as money is only a small part of life. The most important things in life aren’t things. The most important things in life are the cherished memories and special moments that the family will treasure throughout their lives. An Advance Health Care Directive allows a person to decide how they will spend their final days. They may choose to spend it battling for extra time on the clock of life. They may choose to spend it at home with friends and family. Stress is reduced for everyone if that decision is made and communicated before it becomes relevant.