Are you thinking about creating an Estate Plan? Many individuals are familiar with the concept of a traditional Will (formally known as a Last Will and Testament). This document is used to express end-of-life wishes and leave instructions for how property should be passed on. The Will has a lesser-known cousin, and that’s the Living Will. It serves a completely different function from the traditional Will, and has the potential to entice people to create their estate plans earlier in life if they knew its power. Keep reading to find out 5 reasons why you should create a Living Will today.
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is an estate planning document that allows you to express your wishes regarding your future medical care. The Living Will goes into effect when you become incapacitated, which means that you are unable to either make or communicate your own medical decisions.
Common instances include terminal illness, brain injury, entering into a coma, or when under anesthesia during an operation. These are examples of scenarios in which you either cannot make decisions, or cannot coherently or physically communicate with others.
What you might notice about the Living Will is that unlike the traditional Will, it does not address what should happen after your death. To the contrary, it addresses decisions that should be made when you are still alive (thus the term “Living.”)
What can be included in a Living Will?
For a better idea of how a Living Will works, let’s go over the decisions you can make using this legal document. Typically, a Living Will is used to inform others of medical treatments you want, and treatments you refuse.
This requires some thinking ahead and making some tough decisions. Ultimately, the goal is to communicate your decisions that are in line with your values, and those that you think would help you avoid any unnecessary pain.
Here are some examples of what can be included in your Living Will:
CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation): Most everyone is familiar with CPR. It’s a medical intervention that restarts someone’s heart when they’ve gone into cardiac arrest. Electric shock or manual compressions are used.
Dialysis: This assists your body in removing waste and managing fluid levels in the absence of kidney function.
Mechanical Ventilation: A machine that allows you to breathe when you cannot do so on your own, such as during an operation or due to critical illness.
Tube Feeding: Nutrients and fluids are delivered to the body through the use of tubes. This is used when you cannot eat or drink on your own.
Antibiotics and antiviral medications: You have the option to choose or refuse whether or not you’d want to receive medications for treating infections.
Comfort care: Palliative care, or comfort care, helps to keep patients comfortable and manage their pain. This is often used when an individual wishes to die peacefully at home and wants to refuse invasive treatments.
Organ and tissue donations: Do you wish to donate your organs or tissue for transplantation? Make it known in your Living Will.
Donation of the body: Similarly, you can choose to donate your body to scientific research and education.
Why create a Living Will? 5 good reasons
Did you know that less than half of Americans have a Living Will? These statistics are improving each year, but more than half the nation won’t be covered when they encounter an unpredicted and potentially life-threatening medical circumstance.
Many young people feel invincible and aren’t necessarily thinking about the future, but sadly, emergencies and medical circumstances don’t just affect older generations. Having a Living Will will benefit anyone, regardless of their age.
1. You can clarify your wishes
First and foremost, a Living Will allows you to clarify your wishes regarding your medical care. When you’re incapacitated, your loved ones are likely feeling the effects of the crisis most. Not only are they so worried for you, they now have the heavy responsibility of making potentially life-or-death decisions on your behalf. Instead, by providing a Living Will, they won’t have to guess. This provides them with peace of mind knowing they are doing everything in accordance with your wishes.
2. You can prevent conflict between family members
If you become incapacitated, naturally your family members will want to step in and choose a course of treatment that makes the most sense. However, this is highly subjective. What might seem like the best decision to your mother might be completely different from your sibling, for instance. Political and religious views, along with personal beliefs, can all blur the lines of ethics. These differences in opinions can lead to conflict between your loved ones. High-stakes circumstances can lead to breakdowns in relationships altogether.
To prevent this from happening, you can clarify your wishes using a Living Will. Not only are your wishes known, your loved ones have no choice to do as you wish, even if your wishes don’t align with their personal beliefs.
3. You can provide advanced authorization for surgery or other risky procedures
Some types of surgeries, risky procedures, or experimental therapies require the express consent of the patient. Unfortunately, if you’re incapacitated, you can’t give this authorization. That is, unless you have a Living Will that provides authorization in place.
4. You can reduce healthcare costs for your family
By letting your medical team and loved ones know exactly what treatments you want and don’t want, you’re removing a lot of the guesswork. Ultimately, your Living Will can help reduce and control healthcare costs for your loved ones. They can opt out of costly treatments that go against your wishes, such as long-term life support.
5. You get to stay in control
Last but not least, a Living Will allows you to exercise control. We all develop our personal beliefs and values over time, some stronger than others. Some types of medical decisions can be controversial, which can tempt someone close to you to make a call, even if that call doesn’t align with your personal views.
A Living Will protects you in these types of scenarios. The laws protect you and hold others accountable such that they make the decisions that you want.
For example, maybe you don’t want to receive CPR if you go into cardiac arrest when you have a terminal illness. If you are incapacitated, you wouldn’t have a way to communicate this in the moment. Your loved ones may be emotionally attached. Wanting to keep you alive no matter the cost, they may authorize the CPR.
If you have a Living Will expressing your wishes, however, your wishes must be honored.
Create your Living Will today with Trust & Will
A Living Will, unlike a traditional Will, addresses what should happen when you are alive but are incapacitated. It is used to express your wishes regarding your medical care, and what types of treatments or interventions you desire or refuse. While under critical care, it can be difficult for your loved ones to make calls regarding your medical treatment, especially in life-or-death scenarios. Putting a Living Will in place can protect everyone. First, it ensures that your personal wishes are honored. Second, it provides your loved ones clarity and decisiveness so that they don’t have to stress over whether or not they’re making the right decision.
While older generations may feel more inclined to prepare for the future, younger individuals should at least have a Living Will in place, even if they’re not convinced they need to plan their estates quite yet. An accident or illness causing incapacitation can happen to anyone at any time, no matter their age.