Many people think they need a living only if they reach old age, but this is not true.
David Knott, a fiduciary expert at Private Client Trust, a division of Private Client Holdings, says statistics show that young adults are far more likely than the elderly to be involved in fatal or near-fatal accidents. He therefore advises that they, too, have a living will that provides for such a situation.
“Life is unpredictable, which is enough reason for adults of any age to take the time to protect themselves should an accident occur. A living will states your wishes regarding life support should you be unable to communicate your end-of-life wishes yourself, such as in the case of being left in an irreversible coma,” says Knott.
“A living will spares your family the anguish of making life-support decisions without your input and allows you to have the last say, ensuring that your doctor understands your end-of-life wishes and treats you accordingly.”
Here are five reasons every adult should make out a living will:
1. It speaks for you when you can no longer communicate. “The most beneficial aspect of a living will is that it protects you in a future situation in which you may no longer communicate your wishes,” says Knott.
2. It prevents arguments among family members over what should happen to you. It will be your choice and no one else’s.
3. It gives you a say over what medical treatments and procedures take place when you are too ill to communicate.
4. It can reduce potentially crippling medical bills for your family. “Many people would rather die than live additional years on life support that will rack up enormous medical bills, which their family will have to pay,” says Knott. “If you do not specify this, your family may be left paying insurmountable medical bills. To circumvent this, you need a living will that specifies exactly what you would like to happen in such a situation.”
5. It gives you peace of mind. “Tragic situations are hard enough, and you want to know that your family, as well as yourself, will be taken care of properly in such a situation.”
Knott says living wills have moved away from simply focusing on specific treatments and medical procedures to addressing patients’ values, personal goals and health outcomes. “For example, a living will might designate an agent to make care decisions; dictate what kind of life-support treatment that patient does or does not want; discuss pain management, personal grooming and bathing instructions; address how the patient wants to be treated, including religious, spiritual and emotional support; and detail funeral or memorial plans.
“Many people are still of the view that a general power of attorney will suffice if they are mentally incapacitated or in a coma following an accident. Unfortunately, a power of attorney becomes invalid the moment the grantor of that power of attorney cannot exercise his or her judgment,” says Knott.
“The last thing you want to do is leave your family with impossibly tough decisions and crippling bills to pay if you end up in a dire medical condition. Have a living will drawn up and file it with your medical practitioner and financial adviser. That adviser should be consulted to ensure that the documents in your living will are binding and not ambiguous.”