When we think of estate planning, we tend to think of people who are further along in life. Someone who needs a trust to protect assets or a will to pass them on. And while there’s some truth to the perception, it’s also true that an advance directive can be important no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Why is an advance directive important?
An advance directive is a legal form, executed by you, which tells others what medical treatment you would want to receive if you become incapacitated. Car accidents and other unexpected events occur whether you’re 25 years old or 65 years old—if you become incapacitated by such an event, it will be the people around you making decisions, rather than yourself. An advance directive keeps the choice in your hands.
One option with an advance directive is to appoint an agent (healthcare proxy) to make decisions when you are unable to do so. Rather than family being forced to do so in the heat of the moment while suffering from the shock of your incapacitation, your agent steps in. When you appoint an agent, you discuss with them in advance how you wish to be cared for, so that there are no surprises. The agent has already been prepared and knows how to react if you become incapacitated.
Another option is to give instructions directly to healthcare professionals via a living will. A living will is for situations where you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Certain life-extending procedures may be required to sustain you, such as the use of a ventilator or being fed through a tube. If you would prefer not to receive such assistance to prolong your life, a living will allows you to express your wishes.
Advance directives ensure that any medical care you receive is care you actually want. It also removes the burden of choosing from your loved ones. If you’d like assistance completing an advance directive, speak to a professional who is experienced in New Jersey estate planning.