There are many different components to the estate planning process, and not everyone needs to engage in each separate approach. For example, crafting a will is very important when someone has sizable assets or dependent family members, but less so for a young, single person without any major valuable or sentimental resources.
Even those who have taken the time to create testamentary documents, like wills, may not be as proactive about creating living documents. A health care directive, which people may refer to as a living will, can be useful even for those who do not yet need testamentary documents or who have already created them.
An individual’s health care directive can allow them to name someone to make health care decisions on their behalf if they are incapable of doing so (perhaps because they are in a coma following a car wreck) and can allow them to outline their preferences for certain kinds of treatment.
Anyone over 18, especially the unmarried
Many young adults and professionals developing their careers are blissfully unaware of their vulnerable legal status. Once someone becomes an adult, their parents no longer have the authority to access their medical records or make decisions about the treatment that they receive. Even in an emergency that leaves a college student in a coma, their parents may not be able to influence their care. Those who get married can count on their spouse to oversee their medical treatment in most cases, but unmarried adults may not have anyone to speak up about their personal wishes unless they take the time to create a health care directive and name someone to act on their behalf.
Anyone struggling with major medical issues
Those who must cope with disabling medical conditions may be at increased risk of experiencing incapacitation at some point. They may also feel very strongly about certain kinds of care. For example, those with a terminal illness may not want extensive life support or heroic resuscitation efforts. Individuals facing a major medical challenge, especially if they have specific values based on religious belief, may want to create a health care directive so that their loved ones understand their wishes and can comply with them even if they may deviate from standard practices in certain situations.
Adults who take the time to draft a health care directive will have less reason to worry about receiving inappropriate medical care or stressing their closest loved ones with difficult decisions or an inability to intervene should some kind of medical emergency occur. Recognizing when one might benefit from the creation of a health care directive can help people take the appropriate estate planning steps given their personal circumstances.