As part of almost any estate plan, a resident of the greater Chicago area is going to want to give some guidance on how she want her health care to go. This is particularly important as the chances of a serious illness increase because the person may not be able to make such decisions for herself, even when those decisions involve life or death.

There are a couple of different estate planning tools that Illinois residents use to ensure that when it comes to their medical care, their wishes are respected. These tools are serve slightly different purposes, and it is important to know the unique features of each.

One is what can be referred to as a health proxy. The health proxy can involve a separate document which, under Illinois law, formally appoints someone to act as a person’s representative when it comes to making health care decisions. The representative chosen should typically be someone who understands the wishes of the person and will be willing and able to carry out those wishes, even if under pressure from other family members or even doctors.

The other document is commonly referred to as a living will but, in Illinois, is also called an advance health care directive. Unlike the health proxy, this document will include specific instructions about what a person does or does not want in terms of medical care, particularly near the end of the person’s life when it is likely she will not be able to make decision for herself. In Illinois, this document can also be used to appoint a health proxy.

Health care directives are important estate planning documents and, as such, should be discussed with one’s attorney.