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Why health care directives should be part of your estate plan

Most people are loath to think about whether or not they have prepared enough for the unthinkable happening to them. Planning for sudden death or incapacitation was difficult enough. Thinking about whether or not you did enough to help your family members face the challenges ahead is simply a burden most people do not want to face.

Unfortunately, this aversion to reconsidering our estate plans can actually create a myriad of problems. This was exemplified by the Terri Schiavo nearly ten years ago when the absence of health care directives resulted in a family feud that grabbed the attention of the entire nation, including the president at the time as well. Schiavo's case, and now other's like hers, illustrate the potentially litigious atmosphere you could leave behind if you do not bolster your estate plan with health care directives.

Dying and incapacitation are both scary subjects for many Americans because they both trigger the fear of the unknown. But sudden death and incapacitation presents us with a burdening question: would you rather make the decision about your life or would you rather leave it in the hands of your loved ones, the courts or even legislators? Chances are you'd like to be the one to make those decisions.

With the help of health care directives, this can happen. Also called a living will, health care directives allow you to decide what you want to happen to you in the event of incapacitation or terminal illness so that you're not placing that burden on your loved ones. With the help of a skilled lawyer, you can make sure that your health care situation is less likely to turn into a legal dispute if the unthinkable were to occur down the road.

Source: TIME, "How Terri Schiavo Shaped the Right-to-Die Movement," Josh Sanburn, March 31, 2015

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