An advance directive or a living will outlines how you wish to receive care if you are nearing the end of life or are incapacitated and cannot make decisions on your own. This legal document also lets you choose a person who is lawfully allowed to make health care decisions for you.

Generally, people wait until they are in the later stages of life to begin thinking about advance directives. However, unexpected life events can happen at any time. It may be in your best interest to think about preparing an advance directive before an unwanted event occurs.

What should you include in an advance directive?

When thinking about what you wish to include in your living will, you might reflect on if you want the doctors to keep you alive artificially or how you want the doctors to manage your pain. You may also wish to address these medical options:

  • DNR: Doctors will typically perform CPR or use a machine to save you if your heart stops beating. Include that in your living will if you do not want the doctors to resuscitate you.
  • Feeding tube: If you cannot eat or drink on your own, doctors will use feeding tubes to keep you alive. If this is an issue for you, you may want to decide if or how long you want this treatment.
  • Artificial breathing device: If you do not wish for a device to keep you alive by breathing for you, you should include this in your living will.
  • Palliative care: This type of care is usually for those nearing the end of their life. Include in your directive, if you have any wishes about passing away at home or anything along those lines.

States have different laws for when an advance directive goes into effect. If you need any help drafting a living will, or if you have any other questions, consider seeking the help of an estate planning lawyer. They will understand your state’s requirements and will ensure your advance directive is comprehensive and legal.