I was in my doctor’s office the other week and I noticed a large collage on one wall all about the importance of Advance Directives, or Living Wills.
It emphasized the importance of Living Wills, regardless of your age, and reinforced what our office always stresses to our clients or members of the community to whom we speak.
An Advance Directive or Living Will is a document in which each of us tells our loved ones how we want the end of our life to be handled – when we are in a permanent vegetative state, permanent state of unconsciousness, or in the end-stage of a medical condition, all with no reasonable likelihood of any significant recovery, do we or do we not want to be resuscitated, tube fed, or the like?
How will our loved ones know our wishes on these matters if we don’t communicate them in a meaningful way?
The best way to do so is to create an Advance Directive now, while we are still able to decide for ourselves. One of the quotes on the doctor’s display said, “End of life decisions should not be made at the end of life.” Another said, “For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story, and in stories, endings matter.”
Most of us know what medical decisions we want made on our behalf at the end of our lives, but have we communicated that to our family and our loved ones? If not, how are they to know? The display had another quote: “I have an advance directive, not because I have a serious illness, but because I have a family.”
When we meet with clients to help them create estate planning documents, we always point out to them that they have the option in their Living Will of deciding what, if any, extraordinary measures they want taken at the end of their lives. Once they select those options, we then come to perhaps the most difficult question of all: should their instructions be binding on their families and providers, or do they want their loved ones to be able to override their decisions?
Many opt for binding instructions, so their loved ones do not have to take on that difficult decision in the heat of a devastating crisis. Either way, they have expressed their desires to guide their loved ones in making tough decisions.
Age is not a factor in creating a Living Will; tragedy can strike unexpectedly at any age. The expense is low, but the peace of mind in knowing that when our time comes we control the quality of our passing on is priceless, both for us and for our loved ones.
So, start the conversation with your family. Communicate your wishes to them, and urge them to communicate theirs to you. Then, go to a qualified estate attorney and put those wishes on paper in an Advance Directive/Living Will so that, when your time comes, all involved, including your medical providers, know how you want the end of your life to be managed.
If you want to get the process started the first step is to join us for one of our free educational workshops. Just click here for more information and to grab a seat.