What is a Living Will, and Why do I Need One?
As we enter another month of the Covid-19 pandemic, the stories of people becoming gravely ill without a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will continue to mount. Recently, a doctor on a Covid-19 unit shared a story about a young man who required a ventilator to breathe. He never expressed to his family what his wishes would be in this situation, leaving them to guess.
To further complicate matters, his parents did not agree on a course of action for their son. It added strife and stress to an already unimaginably hard situation. This particular stress could have been avoided if the young man had a Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will is a two-part document that
- allows you to appoint a person to make health care decisions for you when you are unable and
- provides for your wishes when you are in what is considered an end-stage medical condition.
Had the young man described above had a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will, it would have been clear who he wanted to make his decisions and provided either guidance or binding direction to that person.
Many people continue to put off estate planning as they do not think they have sufficient assets to warrant it. According to the 2020 Estate Planning and Wills Study by Caring.com, only 32% of individuals have the recommended estate planning documents in place. This number is actually down significantly from only three years earlier.
There is a fundamental lack of understanding about the three estate planning documents every individual over the age of 18 should have. Estate planning is not just about distributing significant assets or strategic tax planning.
At its most basic core, estate planning is about letting those you care about know what your wishes are and taking the necessary steps to ensure the proper people are empowered to make those wishes happen.