What Is a Living Will?
Estate planning is often thought of as making decisions about what will happen to your assets when you die. However, equally as important in the estate planning process is making decisions about your future health. As you age, your health could decline. Should an illness or injury render you unable to make healthcare decisions on your own, the court could be forced to make decisions for you. Now is the time, when you are healthy, to make advance decisions about your future health. By engaging in some advance planning on health-related matters, you can protect yourself in the future and prevent your family from being forced into the role of unguided decision making.
A Living Will Sets Out Your Medical Preferences
A living will, also referred to as a health care declaration, allows you to state your wishes for end-of-life medical care. None of us want to consider the possibility that we may one day find ourselves at the end, yet that is the eventuality. With ever growing technological advances, doctors can now sustain your life for some time using life support, resuscitation, and artificial respirators. Not all of us will want these sorts of extreme measures used to prolong our life.
While you are of sound mind and body, now is the time to consider how you wish to be cared for in the future. Take a moment now to consider what medical action you would want taken in the event a certain medical situation arises, such as dementia, a coma, incapacitation, or severe Alzheimer’s disease. Determine whether, in each of these situations, you would want physicians to take all measures to keep you alive or whether you would like to die peacefully.
With thoughts in mind as to your end of life care, you will want to meet with an estate planning lawyer to complete a living will. This document will question you as to your desires under certain circumstances. Your attorney will ensure the form is completed and properly signed.
Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A healthcare power of attorney designates a selected individual who will have the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if you should find yourself incapacitated. This document will only take effect if you cannot make your own decisions, and your health care surrogate will comply with your wishes set out in your living will. Be sure to choose someone you trust and can rely on to be your surrogate, such as a spouse or older child. Your estate planning attorney will assist you in completing this critical document.