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Happy National Healthcare Decisions Day: Why an Advance Directive is a Crucial Part of Estate Planning

April 16, 2014
Estate Planning Blog Post

Today is a day that, until recently, I wasn't aware had any independent significance other than being April 16. However, April 16 is – and has been for the past seven years – National Healthcare Decisions Day. You can see the website dedicated to this purpose here:

Planning with an advance directive for health care decisions is only one piece of the larger estate planning puzzle. But it is a crucial component of any estate plan, and far too few people take the advice of their doctors or lawyers to implement their own advance directives. Some polls suggest only 30% of the population has implemented an advance directive.  However, this clip from NPR tells the story of La Crosse, Wisconsin, where over 96%  of the population has an advance directive. This has had at least two very important results: first, individuals are able to receive the medical care they want at a time when they cannot express their opinions; and second, medical costs for end of life care in La Crosse are far below the national average.

At a minimum, a carefully crafted advance directive will inform your family members about your wishes for your health care in the event you cannot make your own decisions. You can ensure that your family and your health care professionals know what you intend. You can avoid the need for the cost and hassle of a guardianship proceeding in probate court. And you can avoid unwanted medical procedures. The bottom line: an advance directive is an important part of ensuring that you receive the care you want when you cannot make your own decisions.

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