Estate planning is a difficult topic for most Americans, as many believe the process is too complicated or expensive, while others believe they do not have enough assets to pass along to future generations.

A 2019 Caring.com survey shows that only four out of 10 adults in the U.S. have created a will or trust, and only one-third have an essential estate planning document – an advance directive.

What is an advance directive?

This legal document allows you to instruct others how you want to be treated if you become too ill or injured to make your own health care decisions. It also spells out your wishes for end-of-life matters, such as what measures can be taken to save your life or the medications that can be used.

Advance directives are also known as health care directives, living wills, medical directives or durable health care powers of attorney. Regardless of what they are called, they serve the same purpose for you to control all life-and-death decisions for yourself.

Choosing a health care proxy

The most significant decision you will make under an advance directive is selecting a person to act on your behalf to make decisions based on your wishes. It is vital you choose someone you trust to carry out your instructions.

Since these are profoundly personal decisions, most people choose a spouse, adult children or close family friends. Once you make your choice, thoroughly discuss your thoughts and decisions regarding various scenarios that could arise.

A proxy’s role continues after death

Advance directives include your post-mortem wishes, and your proxy can make sure that organ donation wishes are followed, but you must be registered with the Ohio Donor Registry. You can specify whether you only want to donate certain body parts and organs.

Once your donation wishes are carried out, your health care proxy makes sure your funeral arrangements are carried out according to your plans, such as whether you want to be buried or cremated, or even if you want certain music played at your service.

Control your legacy

None of us want to think about death, but creating an advance directive allows you to take control of your medical care and end-of-life decisions while relieving your family of those responsibilities. An estate planning attorney can help you give them some peace of mind knowing that the care you receive is done according to your wishes.