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Why You Should Consider a Living Will and Advance Medical Directive

While most estate planning involves protecting your legacy for what you will leave to your heirs when you pass away, there’s another essential part to consider: who will make decisions for you during your lifetime if you are unable to make them for yourself? A living will and advance medical directive can help you plan for incapacity if you cannot care for yourself or make your wishes known.

Planning for Incapacity

As we age, our mental functions decline, and we become more likely to develop conditions like dementia or a stroke affecting our mobility, memory, and decision-making ability.

No one likes to consider getting old, but careful planning can ease the burdens on you and your family. Proactive planning is empowering and reduces the likelihood of costly conflict among family members if you become incapacitated during your lifetime.

By definition, incapacity is a condition or injury that prevents a person from being able to make or communicate medical decisions. Incapacity may be due to a condition from aging or happen suddenly, such as in a car accident. It’s never too early to create an advance medical directive.

In the legal documents that become part of your advance medical directive, you can outline your conditions for late-in-life or end-of-life care. The primary benefit of an advance medical directive is your ability to state your beliefs about certain medical decisions for family members to carry out on your behalf should you become incapacitated.

With a living will, you can instruct your medical provider about your wishes for certain medical treatments, including:

  • Life-extending procedures
  • Do-not-resuscitate orders
  • IV hydration and feeding tubes
  • Pain medication administration for terminal illness
  • Hospice or assisted living arrangements

What Are the Parts of an Advanced Directive/Living Will?

Your advance directive should appoint a medical decision-maker(s) for you who can make personal and healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. Your living will is a way to make your wishes regarding end-of-life or life-prolonging care known to your medical providers and loved ones and legally enforceable. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney today about planning for incapacity with an advance medical directive and living will.

Once you create your advance medical directive and living will and sign them in the presence of two witnesses, you can upload your documents to Connect Virginia, the state’s free healthcare directive registry. Your family and providers can use your documents to enact your wishes in the event of your incapacity. If you change your mind, you can upload a new, valid version to the system to replace your existing document.

Your living will and advance medical directive only become effective upon your incapacity, and you may change the terms of your documents at any time while legally competent.

Contact an Experienced Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney in Central Virginia

An advance medical directive and living will are essential to ensuring your family knows what medical treatments you would like to receive in the event of your future incapacity and appoint healthcare decision-makers who are legally empowered to make decisions for you about your personal and healthcare in the event you become incapacitated. Whether you develop an age-related medical condition or suffer a sudden injury, having instructions on hand can give you and your family peace of mind.
Contact Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel in Central Virginia to set up a free consultation for your advance medical directive and living will.