Most people recognize the need for an estate plan, but as we have mentioned before, few people create one until the last minute, if at all. Perhaps you have thought about an estate plan and even executed a will, designating where and to whom your property will go after your death. Maybe the plan includes more sophisticated estate planning instruments, such as a trust. But does it include a living will?
A living will is also known as an advance health care directive and has gained popularity since it was first introduced in the 1980s. But like airbags, living wills are no less important because they are a relatively recent development. In fact, living wills are essential for adults concerned about what level of medical treatment they would like to receive in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury.
Specifically, a living will declares whether you want certain life-sustaining measures withheld in particular circumstances. This means that you can request that you do not want to be kept alive on, for example, a respirator or a feeding tube. You can even request that doctors not use CPR or certain surgeries. Living wills also often have a person's wishes regarding organ and tissue donation.
What to include in a living will is an intensely personal decision and requires careful reflection. But it is an important document for every adult to have in their estate plan. While we imagine hopefully that we will lead long lives, it is prudent even for a young person to prepare for the unexpected accident or illness. With a living will in place, people can achieve peace of mind that their health care decisions will be followed and that their family members will not have the burden of making those decisions instead.
To ensure that a living will is followed, you should communicate your wishes to your doctor and family members by giving them copies of the document.
Source: Shreveport Times, "Protect loved ones with living wills," Devin White, Feb. 27, 2012.