Texas estate planning: Understanding advance directives

Should the unexpected or inevitable happen, people may benefit from having advance directives expressing their preferences for medical treatment.

People in Texas and elsewhere often consider estate plans a legal step only necessary for the wealthy. There is more to estate planning, however, than just creating wills to specify how people's assets should be divided upon their deaths. Should people become incapacitated or be unable to speak for themselves, having an estate plan with advance directives in place may be essential to having their wishes carried out. Through these legal documents, people may indicate their wishes and have them carried out.

When it comes to creating an estate plan, there are three types of advance directives that should be included - a living will, health care proxy and CPR directive. Understanding what these documents are and how they are used may help people better prepare for the inevitable or the unexpected.

What is a living will?

To treat people who have suffered life-threatening injuries or illnesses, medical providers may utilize a range of treatments to keep them alive. These include the administration of medications, tube feeding and mechanical ventilation. Based on their values, religious beliefs and other factors, people may not want to receive certain treatments. A living will is a document that specifies what types of medical care people do and do not want used in such situations. They may also indicate their preferences with regards to pain management and organ donation in this type of advance directive.

What is a health care proxy?

Whether due to an injury, illness or advancing health condition, people may reach a point where they are unable to make their own medical decisions. In such situations, the responsibility may fall to a family member. Commonly referred to as medical powers of attorney, a health care proxy allows people to name an agent to act on their behalf. Through these documents, they grant the specified people the authority to make decisions relating to their health care. People should name someone who they can trust to comply with their wishes, as well as their moral and religious beliefs.

What is a CPR directive?

Health care providers may utilize numerous methods to resuscitate people if their hearts stop beating or they stop breathing. They may administer special drugs, perform chest compressions, utilize defibrillation or initiate intubation. Unless they have specified otherwise, medical professionals generally presume their patients consent to these potentially life-saving treatments. For any number of reasons, however, people may not want to be resuscitated through one or more of these methods. By including a CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, directive in their estate plan, people may indicate what treatments they would or would not want performed on them.

Seeking legal guidance

Although thinking about unexpected situations and end-of-life decisions may be unpleasant for people in Texas. However, being unprepared should they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to speak for themselves may be worse. Therefore, it may benefit people of all ages to consult with an attorney to discuss their options and needs for creating an estate plan.