Do you have a living will or advanced directive?

Have you ever thought about your wishes for your end of life care? If you haven’t, you should. No one likes to think about death and dying, but it is so important to plan for your future.

Consider the kind of treatment you would want to have in the following situations:

  1. Close to death;
  2. Permanent and severe brain damage and not expected to recover;
  3. In a coma and not expected to wake up or recover;
  4. How comfortable do you want to be when you are close to death?

These are the four basic questions you need to think about and answer in your living will. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan.

People often think that estate plans are only for the elderly, like our parents. This is a common misconception. Every one needs some form of an estate plan.

Over 18? You’ll need a Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, HIPAA release, and Advanced Directive.  Once you turn 18 you are considered an adult.  Your parents are no longer able to read your medical records, or even get your school grades.  This will likely, give you a wonderful sense of freedom. As it did for me, when I turned 18.  However, what happens if you are ever in an accident and you need your parents to take care of your finances or make medical decisions for you because you are unable.  A Durable Power of Attorney allows your parents or whomever you appoint to take care of your finances if you are unable to. A Healthcare Proxy allows the person of your choice to make medical decisions for you if you are ever incapacitated.  The HIPAA release allows your Healthcare Proxy to read your medical records. And finally, an Advanced Directive allows you to explain what you would like to happen in your end of life care.

In your 20’s?  You’ll need the documents listed above and a Will. You need a Will to designate who you want to inherit your property upon your death.

Unmarried Couples?  You need an estate plan more than anyone. If you are part of an unmarried couple, same-sex or otherwise. The only way your partner will inherit your property is through a Will.

Married with Children? You need all of the documents above and you need to make sure that you nominate a guardian to care for your children in case you and your spouse die while the children are minors.  You may also want to consider getting a trust to manage your minor children’s assets upon your death.

Elderly? You’ll want to review your estate plan and make sure that it still properly expresses your wishes for the distribution of your property.  You will also want to make sure that your beneficiary designations forms are all up to date.

Why Do I Need a Living Will?

First off, let me explain what a Living Will is. A Living Will is a document that let’s your Healthcare Proxy know what your wishes are for your care if something were to happen to you. Do you wish to have extraordinary measures taken to save your life? Do you wish to be kept on a feeding tube? Or maybe you want none of those things. The Living Will is where you will express these wishes.

Why do you need one? I recommend that everyone obtain a Living Will because it is essential that your nominated Healthcare Proxy know what decisions you would like him/her to make for your care. A Living Will is not legally binding in Massachusetts, but is a great way to express your wishes. Without one, your Proxy will be deciding what they think is best for you, but not necessarily what you want to happen.  Make sure a Living Will is apart of your estate plan!