Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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Missouri estate planning: Do you have a health care directive?

No one in Missouri can predict the future. No one knows if or when they might suffer a medical issue that leaves them incapacitated. Sadly, it happens, and if one lacks the proper estate planning documents, one's wishes may not be known or honored.

If a person becomes incapacitated, someone has to make medical decisions for them. Who gets that responsibility? By using a health care directive, the person granting the power gets to decide who his or her personal representative will be.

What happens if one does not have a health care directive in place? Medical decisions are typically made by immediate family members -- spouse, parents or siblings. They may also be made by medical staff. If there are arguments about care, a judge may get the final say on what treatments one should receive -- who really wants that?

Missouri residents who want a say in how they are treated when incapacitated have to take steps to protect themselves, which they can do through the estate planning process. Many people may not be aware that estate planning is about more than protecting one's assets and loved ones when one passes away. It is about protecting oneself. A health care directive is simply part of a solid estate plan. This document not only allows a person to designate an agent to make medical decisions in the event he or she is unable to do so, but it can also include detailed instructions for how one wants to be taken care of and how to deal with end-of-life treatment. 

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