What is a Living Will, and Do I Need One?

Young people don’t think they’ll ever need any kind of will. However, a living will makes sense for people at every age and stage of life. We never know when a serious illness or injury will occur.

New guidelines have been released about living wills from the American Bar Association, Commission on Law and Aging. Advance care planning is something that shifts and changes throughout the course of a person’s life. Priorities and goals change over time, and living wills needs to be updated to reflect those changes.

MP900314367There are four stages of life when you may need to change a living will, says Forbes in its recent article, “Living Wills Stressed For Adults Of All Ages.”

While healthy young adults are right to believe that their chances of dying soon are pretty low, many in that age range have accidents leading to temporary or permanent impairments. In those cases, having someone named ahead of time to know and follow their medical wishes is a huge plus.

Living will planning also needs to be modified significantly for those who experience severe life threatening illnesses. Another time for living will adjustments comes when people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Their living wills should have directions on what life support they want and what care they would like when in hospice.

When creating a living will, you need to find someone you feel comfortable talking to, who will know and carry out your wishes for end-of-life care as a proxy.

Many people turn to their spouse for the role, but a husband may not want to go through the trauma of extended end-of-life care. However, his wife may believe everything should be done to save him, for as long as humanly possible. A word of advice: don’t appoint a person as a proxy, who’s so opinionated they could let their own thinking take precedence over the patient’s wishes.

A person’s directions for end-of-life care need to be considered after discussions with your doctor, your family and your attorney.

A big issue with living wills is it’s frequently impossible for medical professionals and people with power of attorney to find that they exist (and then find them), when they’re needed for health care decision making in an emergency situation. To solve this problem, some states have created registries, some with smart phone apps that can give doctors and attorneys access to a living will to implement it.

Before you sit down to prepare a living will, talk with your estate planning attorney about scenarios that you are and are not willing to tolerate. This includes being in a coma, requiring the use of a machine to maintain life-sustaining functions, not being able to recognize loved ones, not being able to feed, bathe or take care of yourself.

When you know what you want and do not want to happen during these admittedly unsettling situations, then you’ll be ready to finalize your living will.

Reference: Forbes (October 22, 2018) “Living Wills Stressed For Adults Of All Ages”

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