One of the most uncomfortable experiences when preparing an estate plan is discussions regarding your care in the event that you are permanently unconscious and are being kept alive artificially. This topic raises many philosophical and even religious issues but, setting those aside for the moment, every estate plan should include a healthcare directive.
A healthcare directive records your wishes if you are have a tragic medical condition which renders you permanently unconscious and terminally ill. In that situation, doctors will do everything that they can to save and prolog your life. However, many people do not want to be kept alive in this situation and that is where a healthcare directive helps.
You may remember the case of Terri Schiavo who was kept alive for quite some time while her relatives fought in court about whether to remove her life sustaining treatment or not. It was a very complex case that ultimately even involved the President of the United States but the basic problem was that Ms. Schiavo did not write down her wishes and her husband disagreed with her parents about what to do.
This case, and many others like it, highlighted the need to record end-of-life wishes. Regardless of how you feel about the issue from a moral or religious perspective, it is important to record your wishes so those who are faced with your healthcare decisions know (and can document) your intent.
The healthcare directive is the document that achieves this outcome. We include such a document in every estate planning package that we draft and, whether you have an attorney draft one for you or not, it is extremely important to at least consider preparing a healthcare directive. In Washington, the form is actually in the statute that authorizes them so you can use that form anytime. And if you are planning to hire an attorney to prepare an estate planning package, make sure that you at least consider including a healthcare directive as part of that process.