Personal directives are unique among basic estate planning documents, such as wills and enduring powers of attorney. While wills and enduring powers of attorney deal with money and property, personal directives deal with medical issues and quality of life.
Appointment of representatives
A personal directive typically appoints one or more representatives to make medical and personal decisions for you if you become mentally incompetent. Typical representatives chosen are spouses and common-law partners, adult children, parents, and siblings. If a person has a spouse or common-law partner, that person is usually the first choice. Adult children typically come in second if the person doing a personal directive has a spouse or common-law partner.
Specification of medical wishes
Personal directives usually also provide instructions regarding medical wishes. They often include provisions that request termination of life support in the event that the person in question becomes permanently comatose or suffers from a condition that is virtually hopeless. They may also include clauses about things such as organ donation and blood transfusions.
Important for you and your family
Personal directives protect you by specifying representatives whom you trust and by indicating any specific medical or personal wishes you may have. They also protect your loved ones by providing clarity on your medical wishes, thereby reducing some of the stress that may otherwise be present when a loved one is tasked with making hard decisions about such things as termination of life support.