When you create your estate plan, you may decide what will happen to your home and assets after you pass away. But a good estate plan should also prepare for what may happen if you can no longer make decisions for yourself.

While imagining yourself unable to make health decisions can be difficult, accident or illness may leave you incapacitated. If this happens, an advance directive can make sure that someone you trust makes your health decisions for you. And if a court decides that you need an official guardian, you can list your preferred choice in your advance directive.

An advance directive lets you put your medical care wishes in writing

When you create an advance medical care directive, you put down in writing your wishes for your future medical care. You can list any preferences you have for your medical care should you not be able to express your wishes. You also choose someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t make those decisions.

You can choose your own preferred guardian

In addition to listing out your medical wishes and choosing a health care agent, an advance directive lets you choose your preferred guardian. A guardianship is serious legal appointment by a court. If anyone feels like you can no longer make healthcare decisions, they can ask a court to appoint a guardian for you.

The court does an evaluation of your condition to decide if a guardianship is necessary and then grants the person they think most qualified and willing with guardianship over you. But if you list who you want your guardian to be, the court will follow your wishes. If you don’t have an advance directive that lists your preference, you may end up with a guardian you don’t trust.

Starting early lets your medical care wishes be known

An advance medical care directive is an important part of estate planning. It ensures that you list your exact wishes for medical care. And if an issue arises that your advance directive doesn’t cover, you can choose the people who will make decisions for you. Even if a court legally appoints a guardianship, the advance directive lets you choose your own guardian.

As with anything in your estate plan, planning early is important with an advance directive. Having your plan in place ensures medical professionals and your family follow your wishes.