At its core, the estate planning process helps people plan for unforeseeable life events. While we all know we won’t live forever, there are many unknowns associated with how old we will live to be, our physical and mental health and our living situation. These types of unknowns can cause an individual to suffer a lot of stress and anxiety. There are, however, steps individuals can take to account for long-term care needs and help ensure that, regardless of worst-case scenario, one’s financial and health needs are accounted for with a living will.
With so many unknowns related to aging, it’s wise to take charge of those matters that are in one’s control. A living will is potentially one of the most important estate planning documents an individual will ever execute. In the event an individual becomes incapacitated and is unable to make decisions related to his or her own health care needs, the directives established in a living will provide direction.
Some people want to ensure their life is preserved at all costs, whereas others may wish to have certain medical interventions employed only under very specific circumstances. By laying out one’s wishes with regard to what medical interventions should and should not be taken in the event an individual is unable to verbally express his or her wishes, a living will acts as an individual’s voice at a time when decisions may literally mean the difference between life or death.
In addition to a living will, an individual should also execute a healthcare proxy. In the event an individual is not able to make decisions related to his or her own healthcare, the agent named in a healthcare proxy is responsible for ensuring the directives laid out in a living will are followed and carried out. Additionally, the named agent may also aid in making healthcare decisions that are not specifically detailed in a living will.
There are enough uncertainties in life. Taking steps to plan for one’s future long-term care needs and execute a living will help provide an individual and his or her family members with a sense of certainty and peace-of-mind.
Source: FindLaw.com, “The Definition of Power of Attorney, Living Will and Advance Directives,” Feb. 25, 2015
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