When you think of estate planning, you most likely think of creating a will, appointing trustees or executor, and planning to divide your assets among your loved ones. These shouldn't be your only concerns when planning your estate, however. You should also plan on having a living will or an advance care directive in the event you can't speak for yourself.
You might be young and healthy when you decide to create your estate plan, and maybe you haven't thought about what could happen once you are older and unable to care for yourself. A living will is also helpful if you are involved in an accident or contract an illness that renders you incapacitated.
A living will is one form of advance care directive. Learn why you should plan on having this advanced care directive even if you're young.
What a Living Will Contains
A living will differs from a traditional will you create when you divide your assets between loved ones. A living will determines what you wish to happen to you during the course of any medical treatments should you be unable to tell your medical providers your wishes yourself.
This document typically comes into play if you are diagnosed with a terminal disease. The will can provide direction if you need to have feeding tubes inserted, any stabilizing medications administered, or any lifesaving surgeries performed. Your will can include what kinds of treatments you are willing to try as well, such as chemotherapy.
A living will is a document that specifies if your doctors should take any life-prolonging measures, including the use of life-support machines. Your will can dictate when to turn off the support in the event of a coma that doctors don't believe you will awaken from.
In this event, your living will could potentially prevent your family members from taking the matter to court to decide your future should they disagree among themselves what should be done with your care.
What an Advanced Care Directive Does
Advanced directives are instructions that you prepare legally ahead of time - either orally or as a written document. This directive instructs your medical professionals on what to do with your medical care in the event of an accident or sudden illness such as a heart attack or stroke. The effects of the illness or accident need to be serious enough that you can't speak for yourself or are on life support.
An advanced directive could be a do not resuscitate order, or DNR, should you stop breathing. It can also state you do not wish to stay in a coma if your recovery is unlikely.
You should share this directive with your family and give a copy to your doctor prior to any medical issues that might arise. You will need to be deemed of sound mind in order to sign it, so you should create it before any potential medical issues can occur.
What Limited Power Is Granted
You might worry that once you have a living will it will grant complete power to your doctor. You might feel that even if you wake up or recover, they will still have full control over your medical care. This isn't the case. You can grant limited power to your medical professional and limit certain medical procedures from being done as well.
A power of attorney can help control the outcome of your living will. You appoint an individual to act on your behalf for medical decisions, and you can end this agreement should you no longer trust or have contact with that person.
You must inform your chosen power of attorney and your health care about this decision. While you can do this verbally in Kansas, you should have a document drawn up just in case. Should you change your mind, destroy the original document.
If you are considering having a living will be created for you, Coffman, DeFries & Nothern, P.A., are here to help. Contact us today and we can discuss your potential options at length.