Estate planning includes more than planning for what will happen after your death. It can also help you to get prepared for the uncertainties of life, like incapacitation. For example, take a moment to picture a severe injury or illness that renders you mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions. This is where a living will comes in.
A living will (also called an Advance Healthcare Directive) is a legally enforceable document that allows you to outline your preferences for medical care if you cannot communicate effectively. You can specify the medical treatments you wish to receive (or not), in line with your values and beliefs, if you are in a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness.
In the absence of a living will, your loved ones will have to step in and make difficult decisions on your behalf. This has the potential of leading to disagreements and conflict among your close kin, more so if they cannot agree on important matters. If someone does not have authority to make medical decisions for you, the doctors will likely try to keep you alive even if that would have gone against your wishes.
Additionally, without proper planning and documents, you may not be in control over what happens to you from a medical perspective. For instance, your loved ones may prefer to put you on life support for as long as it takes, while you may have had a different preference if you were able to express yourself. This example, and so many others like it, underscores the necessity of a living will.
Not just for the elderly or terminally ill
You cannot put off having a living will until you are older or into retirement. Disaster can strike at any moment, and it’s prudent to anticipate such eventualities. Remember, you can update your advance healthcare directive as time goes by, just like you would other aspects of your estate plan.
Seek qualified legal guidance, such as the attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, to learn more about how a living will works and what’s needed to draft one. We can help you prepare a sound and valid legal document that will help protect your interests during difficult times.