If you’ve ever been to the hospital, ten you’ve probably been asked whether you have a living will. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t. For several important reasons, that could be a mistake and could cause your family unnecessary grief in the future. An Ashland estate planning attorney can help you decide whether a living will is a good option for you.
You may have a last will or trust in place – and perhaps an equally-important financial power of attorney in case of incapacity. But what about a living will document? If you’re like many estate planners, you may have completely overlooked that critical protection. For a variety of reasons, though, you need to make sure that you have a living will as part of your broader incapacity plan.
What is a Living Will?
A living will document is a form of advance directive that addresses a specific set of medical concerns. Unlike advance directives for healthcare that allow you to designate a proxy to serve as your agent in making medical decisions, the living will directive provides a specific type of instruction focused on end-of-life care. The living will doesn’t concern itself with ongoing care for those who are expected to live for many months or years with treatment but deals only with certain life-sustaining treatments.
Example of how a living will works
For example, if you are ill or in an accident and can only remain alive with the help of a respirator or dialysis, the living will would tell your caregivers whether you want them to use those treatments to keep you alive. In most instances, the living will document only applies if you will almost surely die without that care. It is one of the most uncomfortable subjects that any family ever addresses, but also one of the most vital. If you still have questions ask our Ashland estate planning attorney.
What does a living will do that a regular will cannot?
Most people don’t have living wills, and part of that may be due to the name. It’s too easy to confuse these documents for the more traditional Last Will, but the two documents couldn’t be any more different in nature or effect. Your Last Will can be used to distribute assets when a testator dies. The living will, on the other hand, does nothing of the kind. It doesn’t deal with assets or even legacy concerns. It has one role — to express your sentiments about the types of life-sustaining treatment you are willing to receive when you are at death’s door.
This is why living wills can be so valuable
Because of that, the living will can be even more valuable to your family than a Last Will and Testament. After all, even without a traditional will, your assets will still get distributed to your heirs in accordance with the state’s laws on intestate succession. That distribution may not happen exactly as you would prefer, but at least your estate gets settled in some way.
What can a living will cover?
Of course, there is a wide range of treatments that can be covered by a living will. In addition to the previously-mentioned respirator, your living will should provide instructions about various medical situations. Here are some examples that our estate planning attorneys have included for clients.
Blood transfusions can be an especially delicate subject for some religious sects, as there are certain religions that forbid the use of blood transfusions – even in life-threatening situations. Also, if you’re incapacitated and need dialysis treatment, your living will can help medical personnel know whether you want to receive that treatment.
Some people who simply don’t want to be resuscitated if they stop breathing or their hearts stop beating. Those wishes can only be respected if they’re made clear prior to the emergency, and are often included as part of a DNR (Do-Not-Resuscitate) order. If surgery is required to resuscitate you or sustain your life in some other way, it’s important for doctors to know your feelings on the subject.
Even medications can be controversial for some people. If you are opposed to the use of certain pills or medicines, it’s important to document those beliefs. Food and water. Some people are opposed to being kept alive using feeding tubes. If that describes your opinion on the subject, then you should include that in your living will as well.
If you have questions regarding living wills or any other estate planning matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at The Potter Law Firm for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (704) 944-3245 (Charlotte, NC or Huntersville, NC) or for individuals in Kentucky at (606) 324-5516 (Ashland, KY) or at (859) 372-6655 (Florence, KY).
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