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Taking care of yourself with a health care proxy

It is easy to sit around and shoot the breeze about favorite movies, the Red Sox, Boston’s best restaurants and so on. It can be more difficult to sit down with your spouse or other members of your family to discuss estate planning.

While it can be initially awkward to have those talks, those concerns are much less important to most people than the knowledge that by having these conversations, they are protecting not only their loved ones, but themselves. One of the most striking examples of self-protection in estate planning is the creation of a health care proxy.

Because few of us are eager to discuss our own mortality or the possibility a health event that will render us incapacitated, it is often unclear to even those closest to us what our health care wishes are. The American Bar Association has prepared a questionnaire that can help you assess how well you have communicated your wishes to your family and your physician.

The first question requires you to imagine that you have Alzheimer’s disease and that it has progressed to the point that you can no longer recognize or communicate with your family. The progression has also made it impossible for caregivers to spoon-feed you. In that situation, would you want to be fed by a tube into your stomach?

A difficult question, to be sure, but one that can be answered clearly by you so that your loved ones and doctors understand your feelings exactly when they read your health care proxy.

The document can also help you and loved ones avoid the time-consuming process of having a court appoint a guardian.

An experienced, knowledgeable Boston-area estate planning attorney can help you craft a clear health care directive and make use of other protective estate planning tools that will safeguard your loved ones, your assets and yourself.

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