You may not want to think about your future medical needs. But illness or injury could leave you unable to speak or understand what is going on. Your loved ones may need to decide on what care you want without knowing your wishes.

To ensure that your family and your doctor follow your medical wishes, you can create an advance directive. This lets you put your wishes for medical care in writing.

A living will puts your wishes in writing

In New Jersey, an advance directive has two separate parts. An instruction directive, also known as a living will, lets your loved ones know what your wishes are for medical care. You write down the type of care you want in different situations. Your doctors can then treat or not treat you based on your desires.

A durable power of attorney decides health care wishes when you can’t

The second part of an advance directive is a proxy directive, or durable power of attorney for health care. You choose a proxy, someone who decides on your health care decisions. If your living will doesn’t cover a particular situation, your proxy can step in and make a decision for your health care.

An advance directive makes sure doctors follow your wishes

When you have medical needs, you want to make sure that doctors treat you based on your wishes. You may want to forgo treatment if you have a serious illness or if doctors don’t think you’ll ever be off life support. Or you may want to exhaust all possible treatments.

If you don’t have the capacity to make the decision, the advance directive goes into effect. Your family can review your wishes in your living will. And if you didn’t plan for a situation, someone you trust can step in and decide for you.