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Someday you may become so severely incapacitated that you are no longer able to make responsible health care decisions for yourself. An advance directive is a document that allows you to plan for that possibility and communicate what you want to happen in that scenario.

There are two types of advance directives available in New Jersey: An instructive directive and a proxy directive. The former describes the medical treatment and end-of-life care you want to receive if no longer competent to make medical decisions. The latter names a health care representative who has decision-making authority over your treatment.

Your estate plan can include either or both directives. If it includes both, your health care representative cannot override your instructive directive. When choosing a representative, you should look for certain qualities.

1. Willingness

Before naming someone as a health care representative, discuss the prospect with the individual first to be sure that he or she is willing to serve. You should also discuss your wishes specifically so your representative has a knowledge base on which to draw.

2. Trustworthiness

The person you choose as your health care representative should be able to act in your interest even if doing so is counter to his or her own opinions and beliefs. You should consider his or her capacity for persistence and dependability.

3. Ability

The person you choose as your proxy should have the mental ability to make decisions as well as the physical ability to serve. It may be a risk to choose a representative who is older than you or has health problems.