Do you need an advance directive in your estate plan?

Estate planning involves making decisions related to your assets, beneficiaries and future care. The future is uncertain, and no one knows when an unexpected health emergency could arise. Without a legal document detailing how you wish for others to care for you if you’re unable to make decisions on your own, your wishes may not be known to your loved ones. Adding an advance directive, also called a living will, can provide you with peace of mind that those caring for you know how to make decisions based on your wishes. 

Healthcare agent 

Adding a medical or healthcare power of attorney allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. Many people choose their spouse or adult child, but you can choose anyone you trust with those decisions. Talk with the person beforehand to be sure that they are comfortable with those responsibilities. You need someone confident, level-headed and able to make hard decisions in a stressful environment.  

The person chosen to act on your behalf in a medical emergency may be a healthcare agent, healthcare proxy or patient advocate. This role requires that the person meets the state requirements for acting as a healthcare agent. You cannot choose someone who is part of your medical team. You may also choose to add alternates to your advance directive in case your first choice is not able to act on your behalf. 

Living will 

Your living will includes details on your preferred treatment for certain medical conditions. When making these decisions, carefully consider how you wish for others to handle life-saving treatments. Some important medical treatments that you consider include CPR, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding and dialysis. You can also add details about how you wish for others to handle palliative care if it’s needed. 

Consider the worst-case scenario and include your wishes in your living will. For some, this may include adding a do-not-resuscitate or do-not-intubate order. Making decisions on your medical care is not easy, but having these terms in writing helps your family know they are following your wishes.   

Legal advice during estate planning 

Estate planning often requires you to make difficult decisions, especially when it comes to healthcare. Including a living will and naming a healthcare agent will allow your loved ones to know your wishes concerning your care. An advance directive is an important part of a comprehensive estate plan that will protect your wishes when you’re incapacitated.  


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The Law Office of William C. Wombacher

Local: 309-674-8125
Fax: 309-674-8149

Commerce Bank Building
416 Main Street Suite 700
Peoria, IL 61602
NELF | National Elder Law Foundation
CAP | Council of Advanced Practitioners | NAELA | National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.
Illinois State Bar Association