For many people, an estate plan is simply a way for them to officially record their wishes about who gets what when they die. However, an estate plan can and arguably should be far more comprehensive than simply notes about your assets.
If you have children, for example, your estate plan should absolutely include a clause naming a guardian for your child in the event that something happens to you. You may also want to consider expanding your estate plan to include not only a will for when you die but also a living will in case you wind up medically incapacitated.
Whether you experience a coma because of a car crash or a degenerative condition that results in cognitive decline, a living will can protect your wishes and empower your loved ones to act on your behalf.
A living will outlines your medical preferences
One of the most important documents to include in a living will is the advance medical directive. This legal document explains in detail your preferences for medical care, including resuscitation, life support and even organ donation.
Typically, people file an advance medical directive with the hospital where their physician has admitting rights. They usually also ensure that their family members know about those preferences. Unlike verbal instructions, an advance medical directive provides written records of your choices so that the people you love won’t have to recall your wishes in a moment of emotional distress.
A living will empowers someone to take action
The typical living will also includes one or more power of attorney documents. You can create power of attorney forms that authorize someone to make medical decisions on your behalf or to handle financial matters for you.
If you have reason to believe that cognitive decline could be an issue in your future, perhaps because Alzheimer’s disease runs in your family, you may also want to create a durable power of attorney, as standard power of attorney documents lose their legal authority if the courts declare you mentally incompetent or unable to speak on your own behalf.
Creating a living will ensure that the people who make decisions will have the right information to guide them, as well as the legal right to act on your stated preferences. These documents also provide you with a degree of security, as they ensure that you have control over your medical decisions, even if you can’t speak up for yourself.
Whether you already have an estate plan but not a living will or haven’t taken the time to create any documents yet, talking with an attorney about creating a living will is a good way to give yourself and the people who love you more peace of mind.