A health care directive is not a document you must have, but it certainly is one you should have. A health care provider will listen to what people close to you say about how to proceed with medical treatment, but without a health care directive stating your wishes and appointing an agent, what decisions you would make for yourself may not be made.

Your health care directive can be as vague or specific as you like. It can include topics such as your health care goals, where you want to receive care, the type of care you want to receive, instructions about artificial nutrition, funeral arrangements, organ donations, etc.

Your health care directive is good until you change it or cancel it. Your health care provider will generally do their best to follow your health care directive, or the directions of your appointed agent. Make sure your provider and health care agent are informed of your health care directive and wishes, so that if something does happen, the parties are aware of the direction to take. If you don’t have a health care directive yet, it is a good idea to get the ball rolling on this important estate planning document.