People in Illinois and elsewhere often overlook the importance of advance care planning, especially if they are young or otherwise healthy. However, those people would have no way to ensure they get the medical treatment they would want should they experience a serious medical crisis without having advance directives in place.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, advance directives are legal documents that specify people’s preferences regarding the various decisions that may need to be made in the event of a medical emergency. They go into effect only in the event of incapacitation that prevents people from speaking for themselves, like a coma.

If you are concerned about losing your power to make decisions in the event of an emergency, it would be smart to consider advance directives. Depending on how you want decisions made on your behalf, you could create documents such as living wills and durable powers of attorney. In some cases, you could also create documents such as do-not-resuscitate orders, organ and tissue donation orders and life-sustaining treatment orders. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, a living will is a document used to specify people’s preferences for medical treatment and other decisions that may have to be made should they suffer serious injury, go into a coma, be in the late stages of dementia, become terminally ill or otherwise be near the end of their lives. Through a living will, you could indicate the types of life-saving treatments you would or would not want, as well as the types of circumstances in which your decisions would apply. 

Setting up a health care power of attorney would allow you to name another person to act as your health care agent and make decisions on your behalf. While the person given medical power of attorney would use the other advance directive documents to inform their decisions, not all situations can be anticipated, and health care agents may be called upon to make judgment calls. It is best to make all of these preparations with an experienced estate planning attorney, to be sure you’ll get the right results.