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Why a health care directive is needed in an estate plan

When some people in Minnesota think about estate planning, they may imagine making a will or a trust and deciding what should happen to their assets. However, there is another important element of estate planning, and that is preparing for becoming incapacitated. This includes ensuring that there is someone who can make health care decisions on a person's behalf if they are unable to. A health care directive appoints an individual to do this, but most people do not have one.

Health care directives may have other names, including a medical directive, a durable health care power of attorney and a living will. Perhaps the most important element of this document is choosing the right agent. This is the person who will make decisions on a person's behalf. This may be a spouse, adult children or other family members or friends. People should discuss the directive and their wishes with the chosen agent. This gives the person the guidance that will be needed to make health care decisions under duress.

The directive can include those wishes, what the person wants for end-of-life care and even the person's decisions about what happens to the body. This could include burial, cremation or organ donation. Some people go further and include instructions about what they want to happen at their funeral.

Another document a person may want to consider that deals with becoming incapacitated is a financial power of attorney. This appoints someone to make financial decisions on a person's behalf. The document can give the individual full power or outline limited powers that the person has. This can be a different person from the one appointed to make health care decisions, particularly since it requires different abilities. All individuals chosen for a role in an estate plan should be able to deal with family conflict effectively. An elder law & estate planning attorney may be able to provide guidance during this process

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