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Most Americans don't have health care directives

Ideally, all adults living in Louisiana will have a health care directive. A health care directive allows an individual to have greater control over the treatment that he or she receives after becoming ill or mentally incapacitated. It can also provide instructions as to how a person should be handled after passing on. Although living wills are legal in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, roughly two-thirds of Americans do not have one.

Those who don't have such a document as part of their estate plan may be ceding control of key decisions to outside parties. An individual is allowed to select a trusted agent who will adhere to the language contained in the directive. Spouses, adult children or close friends typically serve as a health care agent. It is a good idea to have a conversation with the agent to ensure that this person knows what to do in a given situation.

Individuals should provide as many details in their health care directives as possible. This may eliminate confusion on the agent's part, which may maximize the chances that a person's wishes are respected. For instance, if an individual only wants certain organs to be donated, that should be made as clear as possible. It is also important to clarify if a body should be buried or cremated.

The estate planning process may be made easier by working with an attorney who may be able to help create a health care directive or explain the potential benefits of having one. Individuals may also be able to learn more about how to choose an agent to represent their needs and how to help them do their jobs effectively.

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