The right time to get a living will is well, right now. Many experts recommend that even if you are only in you late teens or early twenties, you should still have a living will. It’s not something we like to think about while we’re still fairly young, but catastrophic accidents and incapacitating illnesses do happen. So the best time to have a living will in place is as soon as possible.
Broadly, a living will spells out your wishes, generally regarding medical care, in the case of severe incapacitation or a terminal condition. It formally states your wishes before you become unable to make decisions and articulate those wishes.
More specifically, though, your living will is a legal document that contains advance directives concerning your preferences about medical care if you cannot make your own decisions owing to serious injury, coma, dementia, or late-stage terminal illness. It provides legal guidance for caregivers, doctors, and other medical staff.
Living wills span the spectrum from general to specific. But if they are too general, they can create confusion and conflict between your loved ones and the medical personnel. And that’s a sound reason to use an attorney who specializes in and with experience in drawing up living wills.
The purpose of a living will is to lift from your loved ones the burden of having to make agonized, heart-wrenching decisions about your medical care. It’s not only about getting what you want. More important, it’s about sparing your family from having to make tough decisions at an already highly stressful and emotional time.
Recently, living wills are trending away from a narrow focus on medical treatments and procedures alone. Now, they include provisions about religious concerns, personal goals and values, and health outcomes, including pain-management wishes and grooming preferences, as well as emotional support and funeral/memorial plans.
A well-crafted living will states clearly and fully lays out what you want and do not want when you can no longer make your own decisions and articulate them. That way, your loved ones won’t have to do these things for you.
Only about a quarter to a third of Americans have a living will. And of those, most are unaware of their living will’s limitations and susceptibility to misinterpretation. So you need to take steps right away to make sure that yours is drawn up as clearly as possible with all the specifics carefully delineated.
A good living will should specifically address the following issues:
Your living will should also have at its heart these three objectives:
In addition, a living will is even more urgent in some state where your family is not granted full authority to make decisions for you. In fact, in some cases and places, an expensive court order will be required for terminating life support. You would have, then, perfect strangers making these momentous decisions for you.
It really is a wise move to prepare for the worst now – to make sure you get the medical care you actually want and to relieve family members of the burden of having to make painful decisions for you. At Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia, we specialize in the areas of living wills, power of attorney, and estate planning. Contact us today for more information about how you can make a tough time easier for your loved ones.