This time of year often involves spring cleaning for many families: reorganizing the closets, clearing the weeds and brush from the yard, and getting rid of all those boxes in the garage or basement. Spring seems to be a time to take stock and start fresh… at least in the home. But what about with your health?

We’re not talking about the diet you vowed to follow in your New Year’s Resolution, or trying to look good in that new bathing suit for summer; what we’re talking about is your annual checkup—taking stock of your health with your primary care physician and making sure you’re both on the same page with your instructions for health care and your advanced healthcare directive or living will.

When clients come into our office for an estate plan, we ensure that their healthcare instructions are completed as well; but the job doesn’t end when the document is signed. Your health care providers need to be aware of your wishes as well. The best way to ensure that they know and understand your wishes is to take a copy of your advanced healthcare directive or living will with you to your next check up and talk to your physician about it, then ask them to keep the copy on file.

A rule of thumb with healthcare wishes is to give a copy of your living will or healthcare directive to each of your primary care physicians, give a copy to each of the healthcare agents you’ve nominated, AND keep a copy or two on file to take with you if you ever need to go to the hospital. And of course keep the signed original in a safe place with the rest of your estate planning documents.