When the time comes to arrange the details of your estate, most people think of their final Will and whom will inherit. Another critical and often overlooked factor is your Living Will. Also known as an advance directive, a Living Will allows an individual to officially declare his or her wishes in the event of a medical emergency where one cannot make medical decisions for himself or herself.
According to a study in 2017, only about one in three U.S. adults creates a version of this document. People are often unsure about this document, so here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.
A Living Will allows you to be in control of decisions made regarding your health when you are unable to verbalize these instructions. This includes the use of feeding tubes and life support if your condition requires such action. If you are suffering from a chronic disease, you may opt to receive palliative care in order to alleviate any pain and discomfort, but maybe you don’t want extraordinary measures to be taken. A Living Will offers guidance on these issues for both family members and medical professionals. That way, what happens to you is due to your wishes rather than the emotions of your family members or the duties of medical professionals.
In the absence of a Living Will, medical personnel will rely on the decision of your health care agent under a Health Care Power of Attorney, if you have one. If you don’t have a Health Care Power of Attorney, generally your doctors will communicate with someone, often your next-of-kin. This can put your loved ones in an extremely difficult position if they are unsure of where you stand on the matter. In some cases, a family member’s choice has caused legal disputes later.
A Living Will, referred to as a Desire for Natural Death in the state of North Carolina, is a legally binding document that takes effect as soon as it is signed, yet can be revoked by you at any point. Living Wills are different in each state, so it’s important to talk to a lawyer where you live while managing this part of your estate planning.
If you or a loved one is interested in creating a Living Will, the law offices of Kelly & West have the experience and expertise to assist in any and all stages of the estate planning process.
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