Most people put off creating a last will or comprehensive estate plan for as long as they think they can. However, that delay leaves their family vulnerable to the whims of probate court in the future if something happens to them. It also makes them decide what medical actions you would want taken on your behalf in certain situations.
The impact of failing to proactively plan for death or incapacitation could affect you as well, not just your family. Thorough estate plans include not just instructions about divvying up your possessions in the event of your death but also documents that comprise a living well. Your living will explains what your wishes are in the event that you don’t die but can no longer provide for yourself.
Examples of medical incapacitation may include falling into a coma or developing some form of dementia. A living will protects you against powerlessness if you experience a debilitating medical event. It also guides your family in caring for you during that difficult time.
What documents should you include in a living will?
As you can probably guess, one of the most important documents in your living will is the advance medical directive. This document outlines your medical preferences in the event that you can’t make your wishes known. You should be thorough in creating this document and plan for any potential scenario. Issues like life support, organ donation, resuscitation and even pain medication should all get discussed in your advance medical directive.
Your living will also needs a power of attorney that authorizes someone in your family to make medical decisions on your behalf. Many people choose to allocate this authority to someone other than a spouse or child, as these individuals may be struggling emotionally as a result of your incapacitation. Another individual whom you trust closely can make the right decisions based on your instructions and provide support for your family.
You will also likely want a financial power of attorney, particularly if you are not married or if you retain assets separate from your spouse. This document will give limited authority to make necessary financial transactions, like paying taxes, on your behalf.
Planning for the worst case scenario gives everyone protection
Although the considerations involved in creating a living will are somewhat morbid, they are a reality for many families across the United States every year. While you may hope that there will never be cause to use your living will, you definitely want something comprehensive and legally sound in place to protect you and guide your family.
Discussing your desires with a lawyer who understands estate planning can help you make decisions that protect your wishes in the future.