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The importance of advance health care directives

Many discussions about estate planning focus on the bequest of assets. Everyone should get to decide what happens to their property and assets when they pass, and estate planning would be worth it even if that was its only benefit.

There is an additional benefit in estate planning that is discussed far less often, in part, because it can be emotionally difficult: end-of-life planning. In today's post, we'll talk about why an advance health care directive is crucial and why you should also communicate your wishes to your family sooner rather than later.

We tend to think of life and death in binary terms: You are either alive or dead. While this is true on one level, it fails to account for the difficult gray area that often occurs toward the end of life. Modern medicine has made it possible to keep people alive under extraordinary circumstances, but often at the loss of life quality. Indeed, if asked, many people would say that they don't want to be kept alive "by any means necessary" if it would mean living in constant pain or being permanently incapacitated.

Sadly, too many families avoid these conversations until it is too late. A loved one suffers a stroke or develops Alzheimer's and they lose their ability to communicate or make decisions on their own behalf. At that point, doing everything possible to keep them alive is the only option - even if that isn't what they wanted.

As an article in the New York Times notes, simply having an advance health care directive is important, but it is not a substitute for talking to your family. If your family is surprised by your end-of-life wishes, they may question whether you understood what you were signing.

No one likes to think about their own mortality. But if you are willing to determine your end-of-life wishes and communicate them to your family, you can rest assured knowing that your wishes will be honored and that you have done an important service for yourself and your family.

If you are ready to get started with any aspect of the estate planning process, please contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

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