Individuals often think a will is all that they need for an estate plan. However, a complete estate plan usually encompasses other important legal documents, including an advance care plan or, in legal terms, an advance directive. An advance care plan establishes directions for your loved ones and medical professionals regarding your medical care. This care plan may become essential should there come a time when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to injury or illness. An advance directive is most often used in relation to end-of-life care.

What matters when forming an advance care plan?

The chief question you should ask yourself is what quality of life is acceptable to you? As you form an advance care plan, you will need to make decisions about what life-saving medical procedures you want used to prolong your life in the event of serious injury, terminal illness or permanent loss of consciousness.

These life-saving mechanical or artificial ways to prolong life could include:

  • CPR
  • Ventilator use
  • Feeding tube and IV hydration
  • Comfort care also known as palliative care

You first reaction may be to think that you want medical professionals to use any means necessary to save you. But what if you were dying of cancer? What if you had severe dementia? What if you were suffering from some other incurable disease and in terrible pain with no hope of recovery? Would you still want to be on a feeding tube—a ventilator? These are the kinds of scenarios you must consider.

It’s important to look at your medical and family history when you are forming your care plan. Are there health conditions that you are at particularly high risk for? Should you add specific provisions for those conditions in your advance directive? Discuss scenarios with your doctor and a spouse or trusted loved one.

What does Texas require for an advance directive?

There are five potential documents that a Texas resident might want to include in an advance directive.

  • Declaration for Mental Health Treatment: This communicates your specific wishes regarding mental health care.
  • Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates Form: This communicates your medical care wishes to physicians and family.
  • Medical Power of Attorney Form: This document appoints an individual to make medical decisions for you if you become unable.
  • Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Form: This form informs medical personnel and emergency personnel to refrain from resuscitation attempts and allow you to die naturally.
  • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney: This document appoints an individual to make legal decisions regarding your estate.

The combination of these documents constitutes an advance care plan.