It is a misconception that estate planning only involves executing a will. While a will is an important legal document for New Jersey adults to draft and execute, there are other tools that individuals can and should consider creating in order to protect their interests. One of those documents is an advance health care directive, and this post will discuss them in more detail.

What is an advance health care directive?

Many people plan for death through their estate plans, but not everyone plans for their own incapacitation. Incapacitation can involve illnesses and injuries that render individuals unable to communicate their needs and wishes to others. When this happens, a person may lose the ability to inform their doctors and health care professionals about their preferences for their own treatment.

An advance health care directive provides these instructions to health care professionals and identifies another person to help enforce the incapacitated individual’s wishes. It may include information on whether a person wants life-saving or life-sustaining measures taken if the person is rendered incapacitated, or what forms of treatment they would reject during their term of medical care.

What is needed to create an advance health care directive?

It is important that individuals follow state law to ensure that their advance health care directives are properly drafted and executed. In New Jersey, individuals must be at least 18 years of age before they can create such legally enforceable documents. They must be competent when they sign their advance health care directives so that they understand the decisions they are making. Advance health care directives must be signed by witnesses, and they also must be signed and dated by the individuals who create them.

Advance health care directives serve important purposes in the lives of New Jersey residents. They have a place in estate plans and trusted estate planning attorneys can help their clients incorporate them into their end-of-life arrangements.