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Advance directives can provide peace of mind in difficult times

Dealing with a health crisis in the family can be very stressful. Working through uncertainty is challenging, and family members may be called on to make critical medical decisions when a loved one is incapacitated. Without guidance, it can be difficult to make the "right" decision, especially if there is dissent among family members.

Of course, no one plans to become sick or incapacitated, and without any clear health-related plans in writing, it can be difficult to make sound judgment calls. This is why it may be helpful to include durable powers of attorney and a living will in an estate plan.

Designating durables powers of attorney for health care allows one person to make health care decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to do so on his or her own. Under Michigan law, a living will can accompany power of attorney documents to help inform the health care agent about what kind of decisions should be made, particularly in terms of resuscitation.

Determining who will be listed as the agent in the power of attorney documents is important. For some people, it might be a relatively easy decision. For example, a person might want to choose his or her spouse. In other cases, naming the agent might not be as clear cut, especially if a person is choosing among children. Whatever the case, it might be helpful to list multiple people in case the designated health care is deceased or incapacitated.

When the health care agent is selected, it may be helpful to have a conversation with that person. Although talking about end-of-life care or death isn’t the most pleasant conversation to have, it might be beneficial to prepare that person for the possibility of making a difficult medical decision. After all, it may not be best to catch a person off guard in such an important scenario.

Source: CNN.com, "Dying: What no one wants to talk about," Jacque Wilson, Jan. 12, 2014

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