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Advance Directives: Having the Talk

How to Talk to a Loved One About Making a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Making a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Despite the best planning, a living will can't cover every medical circumstance that might arise. So it's wise to also appoint a health care agent through the durable power of attorney for health care.

"Honestly, the most important thing to me is figuring out who that decision-maker is going to be," Casarett says.

Encourage your loved one to appoint a trusted person -- a good advocate who understands his or her values and beliefs and can also talk with doctors and other family members, Brandt says. An agent is often a relative, but a friend can serve, too.

Your loved one should also understand that without appointing an agent, the role might fall to someone he or she might not have wanted to make those decisions.

Once the advance directive is completed, follow your state's instructions for the signing. Every state has a witnessing requirement -- often two adult witnesses or a notary.

Who Needs to Have a Copy?

Once your loved one has finished the advance directive, make sure the designated agent has a copy. Copies can also go to relatives, friends, and neighbors.

"We tell folks to give it to anyone who might be able to access it in the time of crisis or who might be called upon to make a decision for you," Brandt says.

A copy should go to your loved one's doctor, too. Some doctors are able to scan it into the electronic records for easier access.

Your loved one should keep a copy, too, but the document shouldn't be locked up in a safe deposit box. "That doesn't do any good in a crisis," Brandt says.

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Reviewed on December 08, 2011

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