It’s something nobody likes to think about, but it’s also part of almost every well-crafted estate plan. What if you are suddenly incapacitated by a medical emergency or accident? How will your doctors and loved ones know how far you want them to go to save your life?

When most people think of estate planning, they think of deciding who will inherit their assets after their death. While that is perhaps the most important part of it, you can also use your estate plan to keep control over your medical care if you are ever in a situation where you cannot speak for yourself. This is accomplished using two documents: the advance health care directive and medical power of attorney.

Advance health care directive, or ‘living will’

A living will is officially called an advance health care directive in Pennsylvania. It is an estate planning document in which you direct what level of medical intervention doctors should take regarding things like resuscitation, end of life and palliative care. For example, some people want their doctor to do everything possible to preserve and extend their lives if they are suffering from a life-threatening illness or injury. Other people would not want to be kept alive without brain function or if they become dependant on a ventilator.

The decisions are up to you, based on your values and preferences. Your estate planning attorney can walk you through the scenarios to ensure your wishes will be honored whatever might happen.

Medical power of attorney

If you experience a medical emergency that leaves you incapacitated, there will likely be critical decisions to make. If you cannot make them yourself, the person designated your medical power of attorney can. This person will make decisions on your behalf for situations not covered by your advance health care directive. It should be someone you can trust with this important duty, such as your spouse, a parent, or one of your children.

Putting estate planning to work for you

Making sure your end-of-life decisions are already made is just one benefit of comprehensive estate planning. Your attorney will explain how to use your plan effectively.