Expressing Health Care Preferences In Advance
Americans are notoriously reluctant to think about their own deaths or potential health catastrophes. This may be one reason many procrastinate getting estate plans in place. At Schnauss Naugle Law, we often advise people to start their estate planning with a basic few testamentary documents. Later, they can expand to create more complete estate plans, as appropriate.
Besides a simple will, we recommend a living will. This simple but powerful document can make a world of difference during a health crisis. Both a will and a living will can save the family or others time, money and distress, and allow them to manage your assets and your care as you would wish.
The lack of a will at death would mean you were “intestate” at death. Your next of kin (if applicable) would then need to pursue costly legal actions to gain access to your assets, and those assets would be distributed according to state probate laws, not necessarily according to your wishes. For these reasons, we urge everyone to have at least a simple will created and properly signed.
The lack of a living will, on the other hand, could leave you in a coma and on life support while your family and medical providers struggle to reach decisions about your care. A living will, also called an advanced directive, can reduce conflict and anguish while supporting your preferences about:
- Whether to accept or reject life-saving intervention in case of a terminal condition
- Whether to accept blood transfusions
- Whether to accept a feeding tube
- Whether to resuscitate
You may also choose to create a separate health care power of attorney, giving a designated person the right to make decisions for you. That health care agent may look to your living will for direction. (It is also possible to name a health care surrogate on the same document as the living will).
Your Next Steps
Discuss the details about living wills with an experienced, caring estate planning attorney. Katherine Schnauss Naugle has been helping Jacksonville area individuals, couples and families with estate planning matters for nearly two decades. She can ensure that you understand your options about “what to do in case of a serious health crisis” sometimes when you may not be able to speak for yourself.