Creating a last will and testament is an important part of estate planning. Doing so will provide great peace of mind for you and your family. In fact, 92% of surveyed individuals believing it’s important to talk with their loved ones about end-of-life care. Sadly, only 32% have actually done so according to The Conversation Project. Additionally, a 2017 Health Affairs survey found the majority of Americans haven’t documented their end-of-life wishes. But documenting these preferences doesn’t have to be difficult. An advance directive can serve as a guide for these conversations and ensure your care preferences are honored. This document gives clear instructions on how to handle healthcare treatment if you become incapacitated by illness or injury.
This blog post will explain what is a Living Will/Advance Directive, why it’s necessary, how to create one, and more.
What is a Living Will?
A living will and an advance directive are invaluable documents. They provide clear direction around your medical care should you become unable to communicate it. With a living will, you have the power to specify life-prolonging treatments in cases of a terminal illness. This document takes into account any comfort measures such as pain medication.
This only takes effect once two doctors agree the condition is not curable. An advance directive gives much broader specifications over how to meet your healthcare needs. In fact, the specifications within an advance directive go beyond terminal illness. It takes into account medical scenarios beyond terminal illness, like dementia, stroke, and coma.
Do You Need a Living Will/Advance Directive?
As an adult, you have the right to make decisions about your own healthcare. Laws passed in 1990 require healthcare providers to inform all adult patients of this power. But having an advance directive or durable power of attorney for health care is not required.
However, be sure to plan ahead and make sure your wishes are clear when it comes to medical treatment. An advance directive is a great way for you the guarantee these decisions. These decisions include living wills or durable power of attorney for healthcare. This enables you to take control over what happens should illness strike in the future.
If no directives have been established beforehand, alternative action may need to be taken. For example, family members and healthcare providers may need to step in on major decisions as required by law. The courts could also become involved if necessary.
How to Create Your Own Living Will/Advance Directive
Creating an advance directive ensures that your wishes are honored if you become incapacitated. To start, learn about the steps needed to create a legal document outlining healthcare decisions for future use.
What to Include in Your Advance Directive
Your advance directive should include three key elements:
- The name and contact information of a trusted healthcare agent or proxy
- Answers to state-mandated questions regarding care preferences
- Signatures from witnesses or notarization – depending on what’s required by your home state
To make informed decisions about your end-of-life care, consider more than the questions laid out on an advance directive form. Think through what procedures or types of treatments you would like and those you wish to avoid. Do so with specific details for each type in mind. In addition, define what constitutes a ‘good death’ and a life worth living according to your values. Is breath an indicator? Consciousness? Make sure to make these clear when creating your advanced directive.
Your advance directive should also include
- When and how to prolong life
- At what point do you want to preserve resources for other people
- What you would like done with your body upon death
- Any memorial service plans and a list of people who are prohibited from making healthcare decisions on your behalf. This will ensure that there will be no misunderstandings among loved ones about key medical choices after your passing.
Choosing Your Healthcare Agent or Proxy
Choosing someone to make important decisions on your behalf during a time of illness can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. When selecting an individual for this role, consider those who know you intimately and are capable of handling difficult circumstances Additionally, they should not shy away from difficult conversations about end-of-life care. Most importantly, the healthcare agent or proxy must always remain accessible via phone call, text message, or email. They should also be geographically close enough that access is easy in times when support needs arise quickly.
Have a meaningful conversation with the healthcare agent you have chosen. Don’t be afraid to talk honestly and openly. Take this chance to discuss not only treatments but also individuals who may need extra support during difficult times. Your insight can give them invaluable guidance as they carry out your healthcare choices in future years. Embrace these conversations. Let humor and levity bring joy into what could otherwise feel like a difficult, depressing topic.
Appointing an Alternative Healthcare Agent or Proxy
When creating your own advance directive, you need to prepare for unforeseeable circumstances. When the time comes, your chosen healthcare agent or proxy may not be available to advocate on your behalf. You can ensure to have your end-of-life wishes met should the unexpected occur by designating an alternative healthcare agent or proxy. Clearly explain to them what you intend in terms of medical care, burial arrangements, etc. This will ensure they can properly represent you if necessary. Be sure to include this substitute’s name on any document expressing these plans.
Final Thoughts on Living Will/Advance Creative
A living will or advance directive is an important part of estate planning. Anyone who has a last will and testament should have a living will/advance directive in place as well. Creating a living will/advance directive is not difficult. It only requires that you be of sound mind and body and over the age of 18. A little bit of thought and preparation go a long way. You can make sure your wishes are carried out if you are ever unable to communicate them yourself.
Are you looking to create your living will/advance directive? At the U.S. Will Registry, we offer living will forms for all states. Secure your wishes for the future with a living will. To ensure ultimate peace of mind, register it in the Will Registry or upload it to SideDrawer.com – both at no cost. Be sure to let your family know where to find these documents. That way, these documents are always accessible when needed.