The purpose and advantages of a living will

Previously on this blog we have discussed certain estate planning tools that can be utilized to address issues that are less often thought of during the estate planning process. While most people are familiar with wills and trusts and will use one or a combination of both of these to dictate how their estate will be distributed upon their death, these are not the only documents that are important when creating an estate plan. We have previously looked at the healthcare power of attorney, which names an individual to make healthcare decisions in the event of incapacitation. This week we briefly want to touch on the living will.

The purpose of the living will is to allow an individual to dictate the types of medical treatment, including life-saving care, which he or she would like to receive in the event of incapacitation. Therefore, this legal vehicle is similar to a power of attorney, but it ultimately leaves the decision-making power with the individual who creates the document and who may later become incapacitated.

However, a third-party can be named in this will, thereby shifting the decision-making process to him or her in the event of incapacitation. Some may find this route beneficial, as there may be disagreements about the language in a living will that jeopardizes critical treatment. If a third party is named in a living will, though, then he or she can advocate for what he or she believes is best for the incapacitated individual.

Deciding whether to create a living will can be a challenging endeavor. Of course, it requires contemplation of one’s own declining health and death, but for many it is also a financial consideration. A lot of people don’t want to see their estates depleted by expensive medical care, so they may opt to limit the care they will receive once incapacitated with the hopes that it will better financially provide for their loved ones. With so much to consider, it is often best to thoroughly discuss these matters with loved ones and an estate planning legal professional.