When it comes to estate planning and making preparations for the end of your life, you may benefit a great deal from creating an advance directive. If you live in New Jersey and you’re considering creating an advance directive for yourself, this guide will walk you through the basics of what it is, how to create it and if it’s right for you.
Talking with a financial advisor can do a lot to ease the process of preparing for the end of your life. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three financial advisors in your area. All you have to do is fill out a short survey. Your advisor can help you sort out your general finances, plan your estate and prepare for all the possibilities that may arise.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive, also known as an advance health care directive or a living will, is a legal document that outlines what health care decisions should be made on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions.
Serious medical complications almost always bring plentiful decisions to make with them. Is there a point at which you want doctors to allow you to die naturally? Are there certain surgeries you don’t want to undergo? If you do pass away, do you want to be buried or cremated? Advance directives help to limit questions in medical situations in which doctors are unable to ask patients how they wish to be treated.
How to Create an Advance Directive in New Jersey
There are two different forms you can fill out to create an advance directive in New Jersey. These are the Proxy Directive form and also the Instructive Directive form. The forms are from the New Jersey Commission on Legal and Ethical Problems in the Delivery of Health Care. You can choose to fill out one or the other or both.
The Proxy Directive form allows you to transfer your health care decision-making authority to another individual. Your representative will have durable power of attorney for health care, meaning he or she will have full authority to make decisions on your behalf. If you wish to put limitations on your representative, you can do so. You’ll just need to be clear and unambiguous. You may also want to name an alternative representative in case your primary representative is unavailable for some reason.
The Instructive Directive form will allow you to lay out all of your wishes in one place. That way, your doctor or your appointed health care representative can review them. You can provide as many or as few instructions as you wish. However, there are at least two situations you should provide your views on.
First, you should express if you would like treatments to prolong your life if your physician determines that your death is imminent and that treatment won’t help you get better. Second, you should express if you’d like to be kept alive artificially if you become permanently unaware of your surroundings or unable to interact with others. If you wish to make an anatomical donation after you die, you can also make note of that. This could be an organ donation, or you could also give your whole body to a hospital or medical school for research.
You’ll need the signatures of two adult witnesses in order for your advance directive to go into effect. The only restriction on witnesses is that you can’t choose the person you’ve appointed as your agent. If you don’t want to have witnesses, you can also have a notary review your document as an alternative.
Should You Get an Advance Directive?
When deciding whether or not an advance directive is appropriate for you, you’ll need to examine two things. First, you’ll want to reflect on your medical history. Does a scenario in which you’re unable to make your own medical decisions seem likely, either in the near future or at the end of your life? If so, then an advance directive might be a good idea for you.
Of course, you never really can predict what’s going to happen in the future. Because of this, you’ll also want to consider your own medical preferences. How would you want doctors to act if they deemed the end of your life to be imminent? Are there treatments or procedures that you are opposed to? Unless an advance directive is in place, doctors have an obligation to try and keep you alive. So if, for instance, you are opposed to being put on life support, then you’ll likely need an advance directive in order to safely avoid that.
Advance Directive vs. Living Trust vs. Last Will
Like we mentioned, advance directives also go by living wills. Because of this, it’s easy to mix them up with living trusts and last wills. All three can have to do with end-of-life situations, but each is its own distinct document.
A living trust is a legal document that transfers control of your assets to a trustee during your life. Your trustee manages the trust on your behalf, and after your death, he or she can continue to do so. A living trust can be either revocable or irrevocable. This essentially means it can flexible to allow you to move assets in and out of the trust or not. You can also specify if or when you want the trustee to dissolve the trust and transfer assets to your beneficiaries.
A last will and testament also goes by a will or a last will. It’s a legal arrangement that outlines what you would like to do with your estate and assets after you pass away. You can specify one or more beneficiaries, and an executor will make sure to carry out your wishes after your death.
A living will, as we have stressed, doesn’t have anything to do with your estates or your assets. Rather, it concerns how you wish to receive or not receive medical care once you can no longer make those decisions alone.
Preparing for end-of-life situations can be a harrowing task, but it is extremely important to do so. By outlining your wishes clearly in a legally binding document, you can eliminate second-guessing by your loved ones and your doctors. If you have strong opinions about how you would like to handle any serious medical issues or if you think there’s a good chance you could become incapable of making your own medical decisions, then it could be sensible to consider an advance directive.
Tips for Planning Your Estate
- If the idea of estate planning has you immediately anxious, a financial advisor could be a big help. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three qualified financial advisors in your area. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your financial situation. Then, the tool will do the rest of the work for you so you can get the help you need.
- When it comes to preparing for serious medical issues, having the right health insurance is extremely important. Make sure to choose a plan with a deductible that’s appropriate for your situation, and check that your doctors accept the plan.
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