When considering estate planning, you’ve probably heard about “last will and testament” and “living will.” These are important in estate planning but have different roles. Knowing about living wills is crucial for a well-rounded estate plan that reflects your wishes and cares for your family.
Let’s explore key points about living wills, their importance, distinctions and why every adult should have one in their estate plan.
- Definition of a living will: Also known as an “advance healthcare directive,” a living will is a legally binding document that communicates your medical care preferences in the event you become incapacitated and can’t make decisions yourself, especially toward the end of your life. It outlines your stance on medical procedures, treatments and medications that should be employed to prolong your life if you’re unable to voice your preferences directly to doctors.
- Differentiating living will and last will and testament: While both documents are crucial components of estate planning, they serve separate purposes. A last will and testament dictates how your assets will be divided upon your death, whereas a living will addresses medical treatment decisions in cases of incapacity.
- Advanced directives and living wills: The terms “advance directive” and “advance healthcare directive” are terms for legal documents related to healthcare decisions. An advance healthcare directive typically encompasses both a living will (which outlines medical care preferences) and a medical power of attorney (appointing an agent to make decisions).
- Living will and medical power of attorney: A living will complements the medical power of attorney—an essential component of advance healthcare directives. The living will offers specific guidelines on medical care, while the medical power of attorney names an agent to make healthcare decisions in the event of incapacity.
- Importance of a living will: A living will ensures your medical care aligns with your desires, sparing your family from making challenging decisions on your behalf. It helps avoid stress and conflict during trying times and prevents loved ones from guessing your preferences.
- Relevance for young adults: Contrary to popular belief, the necessity of a living will isn’t confined to the elderly. Serious accidents or illnesses can occur at any age, rendering one incapacitated. Therefore, all adults aged 18 and above should establish both a living will and a medical power of attorney.
- Addressing specific decisions and scenarios: A living will encompasses crucial decisions such as tube feeding, resuscitation (CPR and DNR), intubation and mechanical ventilation, pain management, palliative care and organ/tissue donation. These decisions provide a clear roadmap for your medical care, ensuring your wishes are respected.
- Caution on online living will templates: While online resources offer generic living will templates, these one-size-fits-all solutions may not address individual needs adequately. Personalized medical care preferences require the expertise of professionals who can tailor the document to your unique situation.
- The significance of communication: Even a meticulously crafted living will is ineffective if nobody knows about it. Distribute copies to your agent, alternate agents, primary care physician and specialists. Keeping everyone informed ensures your directives are promptly followed.
- Procrastination risks: Creating a living will and medical power of attorney must occur long before incapacity sets in. Mental clarity is vital for these documents to be legally valid, as even mild confusion could render them void. Given the unpredictability of life, prompt action is crucial to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Incorporating a living will into your estate plan is pivotal for safeguarding your medical care preferences and minimizing stress on your loved ones during challenging times. Reach out to an experienced estate planning professional to ensure your living will is tailor-made to your unique needs.
This article is provided by your local estate planning attorney, Corina Colan.
The Law Office of Corina I. Colan| (909) 265-3315 | [email protected] | www.colanlegal.comTop of Form