You may think that estate planning is all about what happens to your assets after you pass. While directing assets may be important, you could be helping your family through an even more trying time when they might need your help the most.

Two-thirds of Americans don’t have a health care directive on file, a document that could prove crucial when it comes time for your end-of-life care. This often-overlooked component of estate planning, also known as a living will, could step in and speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself.

Advanced planning

Your health care directive can outline a range of directions in the event you’re incapacitated:

  • Heart resuscitation: If your heart stops beating, you could dictate what measures to use to keep you going. You might set priorities for your attending physician between CPR, defibrillators or drugs like adrenaline.
  • Life-sustaining treatment: If your mind and body are unable to perform the functions needed to keep you alive, then you could dictate what measure doctors can take, or if intervention should even be performed. Ventilators for breathing, feeding tubes for nutrients and sedation medications to make the process easier.
  • Comfort care: Even if the situation isn’t as dire as an immediate medical emergency, you might find yourself unable to communicate your wishes properly. In this time, your directive can still dictate easing your burdens by limiting the scope of possible tests, handling digestive problems through medication or providing spiritual counseling.

Make sure you’re cared for as you’d want, even if you’re unable to communicate. You can let your wishes be known for care now before there comes a time when it’s too late.