To help your health care proxy render an informed decision, a Living Will in your estate plan is essential. The Living Will is a document that declares your wishes about life prolonging treatment if you become incapacitated. After choosing your health care proxy as detailed in the article Considerations for Choosing Your Health Care Proxy, the Living Will gives your doctors and health care proxy direction in deciding treatments for your condition while incapacitated. As a result, the Living Will in your estate plan becomes a vital document.
What to Include in Your Living Will
While developing your Living Will in your estate plan, you need to consider typical treatments given to seriously ill patients. The following treatments need consideration in your Living Will:
- Blood and blood products
- CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
- Diagnostics tests
Additionally, state law assumes that patients want pain relief, food, and water for comfort. As a result, the state leaves these necessities out of the definition for life prolonging events. So, as part of avoiding life prolonging measures, you need to instruct doctors to withhold all comfort necessities.
Furthermore, in your Living Will, you can limit the authority of your health care proxy. If you feel uneasy about granting your health care proxy full authority, you can place restrictions in the Living Will. However, in most common estates, granting full authority to the health care proxy is typical. Because there is no way to predict the illness that may incapacitate you, restricting your health care proxy may imperil your life. Therefore, by granting full authority to your health care proxy, your health care proxy could still act on your behalf if instructions concerning your illness were missing from the Living Will.
Finally, after including all your instructions in the living will, doctors must comply with your wishes. If the doctors don’t agree with your instructions, they must transfer you to other doctors that will comply. Because the U.S. Constitution upholds patient instructions even if states are restrictive, you must be certain of the instructions in the Living Will. Therefore, if you are uncertain, you may want to discuss your concerns with a medical professional.
Is a Living Will in Your Estate Plan Necessary?
There is no requirement to have a Living Will in your estate plan. In fact, most people with common estates avoid the Living Will and convey their wishes to the health care proxy. However, it’s important to convey your wishes to all immediate family members to avoid conflict. Otherwise, without a Living Will and knowledge of your wishes, heated arguments could occur over your care. Therefore, to avert possible conflict, a Living Will in your estate plan is necessary to declare your wishes to anyone involved with your medical care while incapacitated.
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