Most people are able to communicate their wants and needs, but it’s possible to lose this ability temporarily or permanently. There are many ways people can lose their ability to communicate, which can occur suddenly or over time. It’s far better to prepare your wishes in writing and in advance than to end up unable to communicate critical health care wishes, which could then result in someone seeking and obtaining guardianship over you.

By signing the proper advance directives, you can put your care wishes in writing and nominate who will make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make them yourself.

The most common document that does this is the Illinois Statutory Healthcare Power of Attorney. Your agent under the Power of Attorney can make health care decisions on your behalf if you can’t make decisions on your own. You can specify if your agent’s ability to make decisions for you is effective immediately or if it only takes effect once you are incapacitated. Choose your health care agents carefully and make sure they know what your wishes are.

Talk with your doctor and your family about the types of medical treatments you want and don’t want. Then consult with an estate planning attorney to learn about the legal ramifications of health care directives and related documents. An experienced estate planning or elder law attorney can help you create and execute your advance directive documents.