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Illinois estate planning: What are advance directives?

If a person becomes incapacitated, what happens to him or her? Who will make any medical decisions for that individual? Illinois residents who want a say in their medical care even if they are not in a state to express their wishes have a way to do it, and that way is by setting up advance directives. This they can do while going through the estate planning process.

What are advance directives? In short, they are a type of health care proxy that can come in the form of a durable power of attorney or living will. With a power of attorney, a person designates a trusted individual to make one's medical decisions if he or she cannot. A living will, on the other hand, is a detailed document in which a person expresses his or her own wants for medical treatment and care.

Living wills and powers of attorney are only good if people know they exist. After setting them up, it is always good to let family know where the legal documents are located. One can also provide them to primary or specialty care doctors, hospitals or other care facilities upon admission.

Advance directives are legally binding. Medical staff has to honor what is stated in these documents. If a person has a change of heart regarding medical treatment or the person assigned to be the personal representative, living wills or powers of attorney can always be modified -- it is actually suggested that they be reviewed yearly. An experienced estate planning attorney can help Illinois residents with the initial creation of advance directives, as well as assist with any desired modifications down the road.

Source: medicare.gov, "Advance directives & long-term care", Accessed on March 27, 2018

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