Plan Ahead

sun beams streaking through a lush green forest

Many families do not discuss health-care plans until a crisis occurs. Then it may be too
late. Once a person suffers mental incapacity, options are reduced and procedures become more complicated and costly. Others who may be unaware of a person’s wishes—such as social workers, physicians, lawyers, judges, court-appointed guardians, and conservators—may become involved in the decisions.

Planning ahead can:

  • protect your family from being forced to make decisions in crisis
  • ease decision-making during inevitably difficult times
  • decrease the likelihood of family dissention and possible court actions
  • reduce disagreements between brothers and sisters about “what Mom or Dad wants”
  • reduce stress—emotional and financial—later on
  • assure that an individual’s life-style, personal philosophies, and choices are known and protected
  • increase the options open to older people and their families

There are many appropriate times to have discussions about the future. One time many people consider completing advanced directives is when they are making arrangements for a long vacation. Other times are when a friend, neighbor, or other family member has recently died.

Planning ahead does not prevent all problems, but it does allow individuals to consider options before they’re needed, and it enables family and friends to make more effective decisions when end-of-life approaches.

Lesson Contents

I. Introduction

II. Advance Directives for Health Care

III. Starting an Advance Directive Discussion

a. Plan Ahead
a.1. Test Your Knowledge of Advances Directives
b. Hold a Family Meeting
c. Talk Among Family Members

V. Learn More


Resources and Tools

Print this Lesson



Communicate Your Advance Directives for Health Care belongs to a series called Legally Secure Your Financial Future. The series also includes information to help you organize important household papers and begin preparing your estate plan.