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Too many estate plans do not have a health care directive

Many people have an estate plan that contains a will and other documentation for handling finances. They often think that this is enough, since those documents generally dictate how to handle a person’s estate. However, experts say that far too many estate plans, here in Louisiana and around the country, are missing a key component. About two thirds of estate plans do not have a health care directive. What exactly is a health care directive and why is it so important?

Simply put, a health care directive is a legal document that contains instructions on how to handle certain health care questions for a person. It can outline what to do if the person becomes too ill to make his or her own health care choices or if the person develops dementia. The health care directive can also guide a family or others about what to do with a person’s body once he or she has died. Health care directives haven’t been used as long as wills or other estate planning documents, which may account for why they are often overlooked.

As part of creating a health care directive, a person must choose an agent. This could be a spouse, child or another person. The agent will make health care choices for the person he or she represents. The agent could direct medical personnel to continue treatment of certain conditions or simply make a person comfortable at the end of life, depending on what that person wanted when the health care directive was made.

While most people don’t enjoy thinking about the end of their life, it is important that they do so. Having a health care directive as part of an estate plan can help family make difficult decisions with confidence that they are doing what the person wants. Those here in Louisiana who want to create a health care directive may want to reach out to an estate planning attorney for assistance.

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