During the prime of our lives, we typically don't give much attention to thoughts about becoming seriously ill or about the end of life. Conversations about sickness and your own mortality aren’t easy topics to raise. However, it’s important for us to approach these heavy topics with our families, so we rest easy knowing their needs will be met if or when our health fails.
Rome News-Tribune’s recent article titled “Things to know before drafting a living will” explains that an advanced healthcare directive, also called a living will, is a legal document in which you can detail the specific types of medical care and comfort treatment that you want if you are unable to make decisions for yourself because of illness or incapacity. A living will can state whether life support should be used and whether pain medication should be administered.
A living will is separate and distinct from a traditional will. A will is a legal document that states how you would like your assets distributed after you pass away.
A living will is not always required if you don’t have any strong feelings about the decisions made on your behalf while you are incapacitated. However, if you do want to provide instruction about your treatment and care, a living will is the best way to be certain that your choices will be carried out. Here are some other questions you may want to ask yourself about a living will:
- Do I want to eliminate the stress of difficult decisions from my family? A living will can relieve your grieving family of the responsibility of making very tough decisions of invoking lifesaving (“heroic”) measures.
- Do I have strong feelings about life-saving methods? A living will allows you to state your exact preferences on feeding tubes, life support when brain function is minimal, and many other circumstances.
- Do I have a trusted person who is able to carry out wishes? A health care proxy is an individual that you name and give the power to make decisions for you if you are unable to express your preferences for medical treatment. Along with a living will, the health care proxy or “durable medical power of attorney” can fulfill your wishes accordingly.
Ask your estate planning attorney about this important component of medical and estate planning.
Reference: Rome News-Tribune (March 7, 2020) “Things to know before drafting a living will”