Why this could be in the best interests of you and your loved ones
Estate planning is a topic few folks like talking about, but most people seem to understand how important it is. The subject always seems to be brought up after a notable celebrity dies, Robin Williams and Prince being two examples. Without having an estate plan in place there is likely to be a huge legal squabble over everything.
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn’t just for wealthy people or those nearing retirement. Anyone at any age can create a will and perhaps a trust if they so desire. These documents can – and should be – updated throughout the years. But another key part of an estate plan that many people neglect is a living will.
What is a living will?
Some of the confusion surrounding a living will stems from its name. Unlike a will that specifies where a deceased person’s property and assets will go, a living will dictates a person’s desires for medical care while he or she is still alive. When a person is incapacitated or unable to speak on his or her own behalf, this document informs loved ones and doctors which medical treatments the person wants or, in some cases, doesn’t want.
Why is a living will necessary?
If someone remains lucid for their entire life – even under medical duress – a living will wouldn’t be necessary. He or she can just tell anyone involved their preferences for care. But what happens if the person is unable to communicate? Without any guidance, family members have to make guesses or assumptions, and this often leads to disputes. A living will helps to reduce disputes and confusion.
Is a living will the same thing as an advanced directive?
A living will is one type of advanced medical directive. There are more examples of advanced directives, below.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
With this directive, you will be able to choose someone to make decisions for you regarding your healthcare. Also referred to as a healthcare proxy, this person will have as much power as you want them to have to make choices about your treatment and/or end-of-life care.
Do Not Resuscitate Order
In some situations, a person may not wish to be resuscitated if they go into cardiac arrest. This is a decision people with serious health issues or terminal illnesses often make.
Another advanced directive concerns organ donation. It will be up to the individual person to decide whether to donate his or her organs upon death.
How does a living will become legal?
In order to become legally binding, a living will needs to be notarized. It’s also a good idea to have a lawyer prepare it to ensure every important detail is addressed. While you could just write your healthcare wishes down somewhere, without any legal backing, this could lead to future problems.
Don’t forget that this document is meant to serve your best interests. You have the power to revoke it at any time. You can also decide to put the directives into effect immediately or just if/when you are unable to communicate. Fortunately, no matter what your living will states, doctors will rely on actual communication over a document for as long as they can.
Trust NJ Elder Law Center for Your Estate Planning Needs
Unfortunately, you never know when a medical emergency will take place, which is why it always pays to be proactive. If you want to create a living will – or any other estate planning documents – contact NJ Elder Law Center. Tell us about your goals and we will help you create a customized plan that will meet your needs. You can call us at 973-228-1795 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.