Creating an advance directive is an important part of your end-of-life planning. Doing so will help to communicate your wishes in medical situations where you can’t express them yourself. While a financial advisor can help you put together an advance directive, you can also create one yourself. If you live in Indiana and you’re considering drafting an advance directive, this guide will walk you through what it is, how to make one and if it’s something you need.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive, also known as an advance health care directive or a living will, is a legal document. It outlines what health care decisions should be made on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions.
Dealing with serious medical situations can be extremely taxing, even before you account for the bounty of decisions that typically need to be made. You or your loved ones may have to decide whether to go through with a risky surgery. Your loved ones might also have to face the decision of whether you should be kept alive artificially or allowed to die naturally. If you do indeed pass away, more choices will surface about what should be done with your remains.
Advance directives can consolidate your feelings on all these potential situations in one document. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to express yourself, your doctors and loved ones will know how you would like them to proceed.
How to Create an Advance Directive in Indiana
Advance directives come in many shapes and sizes in the state of Indiana. There’s no one form to fill out, nor are their specific document requirements. Indiana even recognizes a verbal conversation with your physician as a form of advance directive.
If you’d like to make formal arrangements, however, you have a few different options. The four most common types of advance directives in Indiana are the healthcare representative, the living will, the living will declaration and the life-prolonging procedures declaration.
If you choose to appoint a healthcare representative, he or she will have the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf. You must choose someone over the age of 18, and you must state this appointment in writing. You’ll need an adult witness to sign the document with you for it to be effective.
In Indiana, a “living will” and a “living will declaration” have distinct definitions. Consequently, it’s important to distinguish between the two. A living will is a document that states any wishes or instructions regarding your medical treatment if you become unable to communicate them. A living will declaration is more specific. That document allows you to list life-prolonging measures you don’t want to receive so that you can die naturally.
The life-prolonging procedures declaration is effectively the opposite of the living will declaration. This document allows you to express in writing that you would like all life-prolonging measures available in the case that you become terminally ill or incapacitated. You’ll need two adult witnesses to sign your living will, living will declaration or life-prolonging procedures declaration.
Should You Get an Advance Directive?
If you can’t decide whether creating an advance directive is necessary for you, it’s helpful to think about your medical history. Do you have a condition, or are you at risk for certain conditions, which might result in you being incapacitated? If so, you should strongly consider creating an advance directive.
Of course, it’s impossible to conclude with any certainty that you won’t need an advance directive in the future. Because of this, you’ll also want to consider your individual medical preferences. In a hypothetical end-of-life situation, how would you want to receive medical treatment? Is there a specific treatment or procedure that you don’t want to undergo, no matter the circumstances?
Remember that if you don’t provide any advance instructions or wishes, your doctors will try to keep you alive, and they’ll direct any questions about your wishes to your immediate family. If that’s what you would want to happen anyway, creating an advance directive is less necessary. However, if you have strong opinions either way, or if you think your family is unsure of your wishes, you’ll need an advance directive.
Advance Directive vs. Living Trust vs. Last Will
Since advance directives occasionally go by living wills, one can easily mistake them for living trusts or last wills. The three documents share some similarities since all three can involve the end of your life. However, they also differ in important ways.
As discussed, an advance directive concerns medical situations. It allows you to specify which procedures and life-saving measures you would – or would not – like performed.
By contrast, a living trust primarily concerns your finances. It gives control of your assets to someone called a trustee while you’re still alive. The trustee is in charge of managing your assets for as long as the trust is in place. You can choose to specify a date for the trust to dissolve, or you can allow your trustee to decide when to transfer the assets to your beneficiaries.
A last will, which also goes by a will or a last will and testament, outlines what you would like done with your estate after your death. You can choose to bequeath everything to one individual or you can divide your assets between multiple beneficiaries. Someone called an executor will be one to carry out your will.
Advance directives can be quite helpful to your doctors and next of kin during stressful medical situations. That’s why it’s important to carefully consider if you should create one, even though it might not be fun to think about. By outlining your wishes in writing or granting decision-making authority to a trusted representative, you can ensure that your treatment takes place without uncertainty. If you’re concerned at all about what would happen if you were to become incapacitated, then you should strongly consider creating an advance directive.
Tips for Planning Your Estate
- While it’s smart to have an advance directive in place, the top priority for medical situations is ensuring you have appropriate health insurance coverage. When it comes time to choose your plan, make sure you consider your medical history, preferred providers (if you have them) and what kind of premiums and deductibles make the most sense for you.
- If you’re at the beginning of your estate planning process, you’ll want to research any estate tax or inheritance tax implications that may apply to you. In Indiana, there are no inheritance taxes or state estate taxes.
- Estate planning can be a complex process, but it’s important to prepare everything properly. To secure the peace of mind that you’re on the right track, you may want to consult with a financial advisor. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three qualified financial advisors in your area.
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